Fundamentals of exposure risk assessment

Fundamentals of exposure risk assessment



With respect to COVID-19, please be aware of the fundamentals of exposure risk assessment.


There are always risks.  You can manage them, and you can favor one over another, but you cannot eliminate them altogether.


For instance, we could guarantee that no member will catch or spread COVID-19 on duty by telling them all to stay home, but then we’d be putting the community at risk by not having any staffed ambulances.  We must strike a balance.


All our assessments about the risk of catching or spreading COVID-19 are based on CDC guidelines.  Those risks are not yes-or-no, black-or-white.  They exist on a broad spectrum.  According to the CDC, that spectrum goes from None to High with steps in between:



The CDC gives us ways to assess exposure risk in healthcare settings and in community settings.




We’ve developed the following flowchart, in accordance with CDC guidelines, to assess a member’s exposure risk.  The full version of this flowchart is attached to this message.





There are three levels of concern according to the CDC:


1.    A member has had contact with an ASYMPTOMATIC person exposed to COVID-19

2.    A member has had contact with a SYMPTOMATIC person exposed to COVID-19

3.    A member has had contact with someone who has lab-confirmed COVID-19


For Community Setting Concern Level 1, the CDC explicitly says:



For Community Setting Concern Level 2, the CDC provides a table that the EMS Safety Officer can help you navigate:



For Community Setting Concern Level 3, the CDC provides a more extensive table of guidance.  Contact the EMS Safety Officer:





Not everyone needs to be quarantined.  In fact, quarantining everyone would have grave consequences to the community.  When we’re contacted by a member concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19, we can’t make rash decisions.  We must carefully gather the facts, compare them to CDC criteria, and respond carefully.


As the EMS Safety Officer, I’m here to help you with this.


— Division Chief Kevin Lipscomb, NRP

— Regulation & Support Services

— Va Beach EMS Department

“EMS Chief 7” (ECH07)