There is a tool local first responders are using to stay safe during the pandemic and it’s shedding a protective light on frontline workers.
It’s a technology we first heard about in the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak. Researchers and doctors have been looking at the disinfecting power of UV light, particularly for masks so they could be reused.
Now suburban firefighters and paramedics are taking the technology for a spin in their vehicles.
The Cary Fire Protection District stretches across 18 square miles of the northwest suburbs. They run six to 10 calls a day and like all first responders, the paramedics and firefighters have faced new inherent risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Not everybody is symptomatic so that gives it a challenge because we’re always trying to do proper PPE regardless of what the call is for,” Lt Beth Taylor said. “because you never really do know. We’ve had a little bit where we’re given a heads up sometimes enroute because the caller has maybe said they have tested positive. So we take the proper precautions.”
At Station 1, Taylor showed WGN News a typical sanitizing drill. After every call, every surface is wiped down inside the ambulance.
“There’s flu viruses and mRSA and meningitis and all kinds of bacteria and viruses that are all over the place all the timem” she said. “So everything gets wiped down regardless.”
But with COVID-19 circulating in the community, the Aerapy UV light unit has been called to duty.
Harnessing the germ-killing power of short wave-length UVC light, the blue glow hits every corner and crevice where droplets may have landed destroying the DNA of bacteria and viral particles.
“Fundamentally what is most important – if we can’t take care of ourselves we can’t take care of anybody else,” Taylor said. “If we have guys that go down sick that limits our ability to respond to everybody safely, to keep our families safe to keep our own private world safe. It’s great for our patients and for ourselves.”
The department has been using the portable aerapy unit for about three weeks now. It takes about five to seven minutes to disinfect a vehicle. It is another layer of protection for the first responders and their patients.
“(It’s) a little extra security, a little knowledge,” Taylor said. “We are doing everything we possibly can to protect ourselves and keep our ambulances and vehicles as clean as we can – for our patients as well so they know when we are taking them to the hospital, they are in the best situation they can be in.”
The portable UV light unit costs about $3,000. The station has two additional stationary units inside the bunk room and meeting room.
More about the Aerapy UV light unit on their website and Zone360 Upper Air UV.