How can I protect my family from COVID-19?
When working from home isn’t an option: a checklist for reducing the risk of transmitting exposure after returning from a shift
By Emily Pearce, BS, EMT-P, FAWM, DiMM
For first responders, staying home isn’t an option during the COVID-19 pandemic. And when you do return home after a shift, you want to ensure your loved ones are protected from SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19).
A printed checklist can help you to follow safe decontamination procedures after a long shift when you are fatigued and likely to miss steps. Print one out for your home and one for your vehicle.
Follow these steps to protect your home and your family from COVID-19 after a shift:
- At the end of your shift, wash your hands before you leave for home.
- If you are reusing a respirator, take care in properly donning and doffing your mask. Avoid touching the front of the mask and clean your hands after doffing. Between uses, it should either be hung in a designated storage area or placed in a clean, breathable container, such as a paper bag. Do not keep a used N95 mask in a sealed plastic bag or stuff it in a pocket.
- Stage storage bins or bags in the back of your vehicle to store your work bag and other work items until you are able to complete a full decontamination at home.
- Once you arrive home, remove your shoes at the entrance to your residence and place them in a plastic bin. Later, you will decontaminate them with diluted bleach or an approved household cleaner.
- While still in the entryway, remove all items in your pockets. Place these, along with your phone, car keys and any other items you took to work in another storage bin. You will wipe all of this down later.
- Immediately upon entering your home and emptying your pockets, walk to the bathroom and shower. Have a clean change of clothes ready in the bathroom. Do not physically greet your pet or your family. Have a bin or plastic bag in the bathroom in which to place your dirty clothes.
- After showering and changing into clean clothes, take your dirty clothes to the washing machine immediately. Try not to touch these clothes as you place them in the washing machine.
- Return to the entryway. Spray a diluted bleach solution or use an approved cleaning solution on your shoes, remembering not to touch them. If normally used disinfectant is not available, use a 10:1 water-to-bleach solution.
- Do the same with all the items you removed from your pockets, as well as your phone and car keys. Any equipment should be cleaned as directed by the manufacturer.
- Retrace your steps to your car. Wipe down any surfaces you may have touched, including door handles, car handles and gates.
- Clean the remainder of your work items. Wash bags and reusable food containers and wipe down any other equipment (e.g., stethoscope, watch, etc).
- At the end of your decontamination process, wash your hands one final time.
Print out the after-shift checklist and hang it by your door.
About the author
Emily Pearce, BS, EMT-P, FAWM, DiMM, is a paramedic and third-year medical student at the University of New Mexico. Emily has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and has been involved in EMS since 2008. She has worked as an EMT-Basic in rural Virginia, a search and rescue paramedic for the National Park Service in Grand Canyon National Park, and a prehospital educator and researcher at UNM.