Emergency services continue to serve communities amid COVID-19 outbreak


Jacob Fitzgerald

Rapid City Fire Department Headquarters.

While communities are sheltered in place due to the COVID-19, first responder agencies, such as the Rapid City Fire Department, are always on-duty to handle emergency calls.

As of May 19, the South Dakota Department of Health has reported 4,085 positive cases and 25,624 negative cases of the novel coronavirus in South Dakota.

Lt. Jim Bussell, Public Information Officer and Paramedic for the Rapid City Fire Department, says there has been a small decrease in call volume for the RCFD since the pandemic started.

However, what if someone with a diagnosed case of COVID-19 has a medical emergency that requires immediate attention?

“Regardless of what the complaint is, if they believe they have a medical emergency they should call 911,” said Bussell.

Bussell says the RCFD is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control to protect their patients and crew members.

“If [patients] have complaints that they have an active COVID infection, we will send our mobile medic in first,” Bussell said. “One responder to make sure we are limiting not only potential exposure to other responders, but we are also being careful with the amount of personal protective equipment we’re using.”

The lone responder will assess the patient to determine if the emergency is COVID-19-related or if other care is required. Although most of their procedures were already in place prior to the current pandemic, Bussell adds the department conducts temperature and wellness checks of their personnel every twelve hours.

Bussell encourages people to continue following CDC guidelines, practice social distancing and do their part to help flatten the curve.