EMS ambassadors assist with reopening Las Vegas
Community Ambulance ambassador program extended EMS’ role in COVID-19 screening and testing at hotels, arenas and in the community
By Glen Simpson and Janet E. Smith
From the beginning of the COVID-19 shut down in Las Vegas, Nevada emergency managers and elected officials knew the importance of re-opening as quickly and as safely as possible. All local cities and Clark County’s EMS emergency managers, first responders and ambulance service leaders, including those from Community Ambulance, came together to plan, practice and prepare.
As Community Ambulance’s special event medical services division has close ties with local hotel, arena and stadium venue owners and event producers, it was a logical first step for EMS to be at the planning table and be seen as a solutions partner when it came to setting up community testing sites and implementing re-opening strategies. In partnership with the Clark County Office of Emergency management, Community Ambulance trained hundreds of its employees on COVID-19 specimen collection procedures and began scheduling personnel to staff community drive-through testing sites.
After nearly three months of complete shut-down, Las Vegas began re-opening non-essential businesses in early June 2020. Traffic began to congest, people began to mingle, and typical weekend traffic began to resume on the I-15 between California and Nevada.
On the EMS scene, emergency and inter-facility EMS call volumes were still far below normal in June of 2020. However, the Special Operations Division at Community Ambulance became inundated with requests for employees’ and visitors’ COVID-19 assessments at all types of construction worksites, stadiums, hotels and industrial workplaces in the Las Vegas Valley. These COVID-19 assignments included temperature screening and COVID-19 testing.
Hotel, arena roles for EMS
To address these new business demands, Community Ambulance immediately hired 40-plus personnel, a dedicated manager, as well as supervisory staff for its special operations division. Twenty of these new hires accepted a position as a non-medical company ambassador. The company provided these ambassadors training about how to use infrared thermometers to assess the temperature of anyone checking into a hotel. The ambassadors were recruited from the company’s medical Scouting Explorer Post as well as from a company list of individuals interested in EMS careers.
The ambassadors, along with an EMT, scheduled on a 24/7 basis at an initial four (currently a dozen) local hotels continue to assess temperatures of arriving guests as they line up to check into the hotel. They sequester those whose temperatures exceeded 100.4° F for 15 minutes in a specially designated cool down area near the building entrance where they take the initial temperature. This cool down area is staffed by an EMT (outside temperatures in Las Vegas exceeded 115° F during the summer of 2020. Thermal reads often exceed normal because a person’s skin surface might just be plain hot due to the environment).
Hotel guests returning to the hotel are asked to get a COVID-19 test if they still register a fever of 100.4 or higher after being cooled down. The on-scene EMT personnel often facilitate that testing appointment.
Just arriving hotel guests who still have a temperature after being in the cool down area were and continue to be refused occupancy at the hotel. In addition to other advice about their healthcare options, the on-scene EMT advises these fevered visitors to get a COVID-19 test. On-scene EMS personnel facilitate a COVID-19 test through a procedure put in place by the Office of Emergency Management and other partners.
Community Ambulance’s ambassadors and EMTs/Paramedics also recently wrapped up helping to maintain a sports bubble for an international boxing competition. The company’s ringside paramedic personnel at these no-audience bouts were required to get COVID-19 tested to join the bubble. These personnel performed daily COVID-19 testing for the events’ athletes/competitors as well as event production’s staff members throughout the competition. Boxers were scheduled for bouts every Tuesday and Thursday for eight weeks. That meant coordinating lots of logistics, testing, sequestering, etc. during the eight-week period.
EMS resource management
The linchpin in Community Ambulance’s success in keeping up with immediate and high demand for temperature assessments throughout the Las Vegas Valley has been the company’s new ambassador position. The position has offered EMS-interested and potential employees a customer-focused and non-medical role with the company.
The company has been able to spread its EMT and paramedic resources throughout the coverage area so that 911 ambulances and all other assignments receive properly staffed and credentialed providers.
And, perhaps most importantly, Las Vegas employees feel safer and more cared about while arriving guests observe a thriving yet safe tourist environment they have come to expect in Las Vegas.
About the authors
Glen Simpson is director of special operations at Community Ambulance in Henderson, Nevada.
Janet E. Smith is president/EMS consultant at Janet Smith & Associates On Assignment.