All calls to 911 screened to protect Sudbury first responders from exposure to COVID-19

The City of Greater Sudbury is reminding residents in this age of COVID-19, to be truthful when calling 911 for help. Before paramedics, police or firefighters are dispatched, the caller will be asked about any possible symptoms or exposure to the novel coronavirus. This enables first responders to ensure they're equipped with the necessary personal protective equipment.

"We will come to any call for service to 911," Sudbury's deputy chief of emergency services says

Emergency services in Greater Sudbury is reminding callers to 911 to answer COVID-19 screening questions truthfully, as it helps protect paramedics, police officers and firefighters from contracting the virus. (Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services/ Twitter)

While most people are urged to stay home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there are others who must go out to help the sick.

Health care workers and first responders are trained to care for people in extreme situations, often risking their own health in the process.

But screening measures have been put in place to try to protect them from developing COVID-19

Anyone who calls 911 must answer questions.

They include whether the person has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing.

The person is also asked whether they've traveled outside Canada or if they've had contact or exposure with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.

The screening questions provide paramedics, police officers and firefighters with information they need to stay safe when arriving at the call.

Melissa Roney is deputy chief of emergency services for the City of Greater Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Melissa Roney, deputy chief of emergency services for the City of Greater Sudbury, urges people to be truthful with they're answering the questions from the 911 communicator.

"If you call 911 and you are positive to those screening questions, you'll see paramedics come in equipped with their [personal protective equipment]," she said.

First responders are equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) for protection from aerosol or droplet contact from COVID-19. This includes goggles, gowns, gloves and N-95 masks.

"We have had some instances where that screening has not been completed and/or not lining up with what they're hearing when they're doing the patient interview," Roney said.

"We understand that sometimes when you're calling 911 it could be the worst day of your life, so people are anxious and stressed out, and maybe not understanding the questions fully."

Roney reiterates that first responders will always come to a call, regardless of the answers to those screening questions.

"Be really aware and think about the questions they're asking so we can keep our first responders healthy."

"We will come to any call for service to 911"

Roney adds there will be no difference in response times to get to the call.

"We're going to respond quickly, and be there as fast as we can, however, we may look a little different in terms of donning the necessary equipment with the masks, the gloves, the gown and the eye protection," she said.

There is a second set of screening questions, just in case.

Along with the 911 screening measures, first responders are also trained to ask the same questions once they arrive at a call to ensure a secondary-layer of safety.

"We will respond, we are going to respond whether a patient is screened positive or not. Absolutely. Our response times stay as they are."

Training kicks in

According to Roney, over the past week Greater Sudbury paramedics have responded to about two calls per day of suspected COVID-19 cases.

"We will come to any call for service to 911," Roney said.

"Our paramedics are doing what they do, and what they're trained to do very well," she said.

"This is how we work all of the time."

About the Author

Angela Gemmill


Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to


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