Diversions, extra calls put added pressure on Houston’s EMS crews during COVID-19 pandemic

HOUSTON – Houston’s emergency medical services crews are as busy as they’ve ever been, answering the COVID-19 call.

“There is no easy shift out here,” said Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña. “Each and every day.”

The Houston Fire Department is a “full service” department which means firefighters respond to fires and other emergencies and provide ambulatory services when necessary. Data reviewed by Channel 2 Investigates shows that since March, there’s been a 30% increase in calls for service. It’s happening at a time when the firefighters are falling victim to the virus themselves. Three weeks ago, more than 300 firefighters were in quarantine.

“When you take 300 firefighters, that’s almost a third of what I would need every day, to staff every day,” says Chief Pena.

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Constant threat

Captain C.J. Brown is the fire department’s EMS supervisor. He hasn’t been quarantined, but he knows the potential is there.

“I think it is still in my mind for sure,” he said. “But there’s been times when it’s like a house fire, you just go in and trying to save someone, but you’re still protecting yourself.”

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