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Buncombe EOC in Action: Quick Response Teams Offer Medical Help, Community Resources

This is the fourth article in a series where we look at the diverse methods our EOC is using to meet real needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can find the previous installments below.

Since news of the COVID-19 outbreak, Buncombe County officials have taken guidance from experts in the medical and scientific communities and treated this as a public health crisis. On March 12, Buncombe County proactively declared a state of emergency and put weeks’ worth of logistical planning into action by opening its emergency operations center (EOC). Since then, a collaboration of governments, nonprofits, school systems, and other stakeholders have been diligently and innovatively looking at ways to address myriad community needs stemming from COVID-19.

Below are some of the resources our EOC has developed and ways you can learn more about those programs.

QRTs Offer Community-Based Emergency Response, Provide Expanded EMS Capacity

When facing a global pandemic like COVID-19, taking inventory of available Emergency Services resources is imperative when planning for a potential spike of cases that could put a strain on available personnel. In response to this scenario, Emergency Operations Center staff, led by the Asheville Fire Department, established the Quick Response Medic Team (QRT). “The team is made up of members with advanced emergency medical training,” explains AFD Assistant Chief Barry Hendren. “In addition to responding to lower acuity calls for service, the team will be delivering outreach materials to areas where there are groups of vulnerable populations such as densely populated apartment complexes that the fire department responds to frequently for medical calls.”

The QRT ensures calls are met with immediate medical assistance while prioritizing EMS transport for situations that rise to that level of need. Further, should the QRT arrive at a scene and determine EMS transport is needed, they can request it while providing emergency care. “As the QRT interacts with the community on calls for service or through outreach, we expect to see outcomes that reduce the demand on the overall Emergency Medical System. The team will also be able to refer those in need to the appropriate medical or social services within the community,” notes Hendren.

Additionally, the QRT is distributing valuable information about best practices for preventing the spread of COVID-19, where to find food and shelter assistance, and more. “We are currently passing out information provided by the Asheville Buncombe Homelessness Assistance and Resources. In addition, we are providing information posted on the Buncombe County web page related to COVID-19,” says Hendren. That information includes resources for residents and facility managers that specifically relates to staying safe in high-density housing.

For now, the QRT is only operating within the City of Asheville. But Hendren says the plan is to share the Asheville QRT’s experience. “As we develop the program, we will be providing the template to other departments around the County so they can implement it and hopefully continue to positively impact the healthcare community,” he says.

Previous EOC in Action articles