MIT EMS heightens PPE protocols for COVID-19

On-campus EMS calls have decreased, no uptick yet in Cambridge, Boston calls

MIT EMS has enhanced personal protective equipment (PPE) protocols for all dispatches in alignment with new Massachusetts Department of Health guidelines as of the week of March 22. MIT EMS remains in service, operating 24/7.

MIT EMS Chief Alice Lin ’20 said in an interview with The Tech that eight EMS members, composed of three undergraduates, three graduates, and two alumni, staff the ambulance full time

MIT EMTs now respond to all calls wearing face shields, N95 masks, and gloves. In addition, if there is any suspicion based on CDC guidelines that a patient may have COVID-19, the EMTs will wear gowns, Lin said.

Lin and other senior MIT EMS members held an enhanced training on the new protocol March 28, Suzanne Blake, MIT Emergency Management director and MIT EMS administrative director, said in an interview with The Tech. 

At the training, members learned how to “properly” put on the gown, take it off, and decontaminate the inside of the ambulance in the case of a COVID-19 positive patient, Lin said.

Cambridge Fire Department (CFD) and Pro EMS, who together form the Cambridge EMS system, were also involved in the training and have provided MIT EMS access to their online training portal, Blake said.

MIT EMS is well-stocked with PPE. In addition to MIT EMS’s existing supply, Pro EMS “has been supplying us regularly with all the appropriate PPE, especially as the protocols change,” including masks and goggles, Blake said. 

Additionally, Blake said that MIT EMS is part of a “larger network” through the MIT PPE working group, which is collecting PPE and other supplies from on-campus labs and other suppliers to distribute to local first responders and hospitals. 

Lin said that MIT EMS is “very well supported by Emergency Management,” in addition to “partner agencies in both Cambridge and Boston.” MIT EMS has been “a very strong part of the equipment distribution process,” Lin said. 

In addition, MIT Emergency Management has been providing meals and a Netflix account to EMTs. “We're really trying to make sure they're taken care of and that they are healthy and they have everything they need to do their job safely,” Blake said. 

Lin said that calls on campus have decreased from one to two a day to five to six a week due to students moving off campus. 

Because there are fewer EMTs — eight full-time staff, as opposed to 35-40 members during the school year — MIT EMS is operating in crews of two rather than three. Each crew consists of a “very experienced” Crew Chief and a Second, a less experienced but “still very competent” member, Lin said. 

MIT EMS remains integrated with Pro EMS in Cambridge and the Boston Area Ambulance Mutual Aid Network and has not yet experienced an increase in calls in either Cambridge or Boston, Lin said.

In the case that there are insufficient ambulances in Cambridge, MIT EMS will cover for Pro EMS. MIT EMS also takes calls from the Boston Area Ambulance Mutual Aid Network if it is sufficiently staffed to help, Lin said. 

Blake said that CFD and Pro EMS have encouraged MIT EMS to stay in service. “Any ambulance service that is able to stay up and running will substantially help out with the effort when calls and everything starts getting busier” as it nears the projected mid-April COVID-19 case peak, Blake said.

Additionally, MIT EMS has been interfacing with CFD, Pro EMS, MIT Emergency Management, MIT Police, Cambridge Police, the Cambridge Department of Public Health, Cambridge Health Alliance, Harvard Emergency Management, and Harvard Police in planning meetings at least once a week, Blake said. 

The organizations also keep in touch regularly through email and text to “make sure everyone is on the same page,” Lin said.