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New equipment for Ottawa’s paramedics looks out of this world

September 24, 2020
Feature Stories

Ottawa’s paramedics are taking on a new space-age look as they continue to find ways to provide safe and reliable service during the global pandemic.

Paramedic wearing protective clothing and loading a stretcher into an ambulance

You may have already seen them. Paramedics are starting to use new Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs). What you see is the face mask, affixed to a helmet, with an air hose leading to a filtration unit on the paramedic’s belt.

Face mask, affixed to a helmet, with an air hose leading to filtration unit on the paramedic’s belt

They look cool but looks aren’t everything.

The PAPR replaces the disposable N95 face masks and face shields, which need to be discarded after each use. Currently, Ottawa’s paramedics dispose of 600 N95 masks and 200 face shields every day. The PAPR, including the face shield, is reusable – and it has a lifespan of five to 10 years. They just need to replace the filter every six months.

Since the global pandemic started, there has been a shortage of N95 masks. Paramedics are constantly ordering and waiting on masks, hoping to have enough to get them through the next few weeks.

The PAPRs eliminate this risk.

They also have an accessibility benefit for people with hearing impairments. Anyone who depends on lip reading or seeing facial expressions to understand a speaker can now communicate more efficiently with a paramedic. There’s no longer an N95 mask blocking the paramedic’s face.

Paramedic wearing Powered Air Purifying Respirator, in an ambulance.

Although PAPRs require a greater up-front investment, the cost is significantly less when spread over the unit’s five-to-10-year lifespan.

So, don’t be surprised if you call for paramedics and they arrive looking like they're from another planet – especially considering the service they provide is out of this world.

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