Dispatching in a pandemic

BY MELINDA ENNIS

911 Center Assistant Director

The Covid-19 Pandemic has caused changes around the world. It has affected the way we live, entertain, educate, work, and even how we get medical assistance.

The Danville 911 Center is not exempt from those changes.

For our 911 dispatchers it had a bigger impact in how much it did not change. We reported to work every day, even when the businesses around us were shutting down or having employees work from home.  911 Dispatchers don’t have the option of working from home. You still need someone on the other side of the phone to get the help you need.

Fire, Police, and EMS still need someone on the other side of the radio letting them know where to go and what they are responding to. You can shut down a business when COVID hits but you can’t shut down 911.

The first several months of quarantine/lock down created new types of calls.

Panicked callers wanted to report dangerous gatherings, scared of the spread of the disease. We heard, “but Andy said” more times than we could count.

We too had those fears and concerns of getting sick. Mask are not an option for dispatchers, so alternative ways to social distance had to be utilized. We had important questions for the agency that had to be answered. Do we work in back up centers? How do we quarantine and disinfect when we can’t shut down for periods of time? Do we work if we are positive but symptom free?

We also had to adjust to listening to the first responders when they wore masks as it made it harder to understand them by radio. We developed a new approach to call taking, especially medical emergencies.

Officers had to adjust in their approach to calls. They had to handle more calls by phone instead of an in-person response. Our questioning on the initial calls for service changed to assist the officers’ new response type.

Our family life was also affected.

Daycare and school closings caused dispatchers with young children to find other arrangements. Some had to juggle 10+ hour shifts on top of assisting with home schooling. We had to do the shopping and run errands for our elderly parents.

We kept our distance from family members because we still had to respond to work and couldn’t risk being exposed. It even changed the dynamics in our households of who stayed home with the children or picked up the slack with chores.

What this pandemic has taught us is that we are strong and dedicated essential workers. We learned to adapt and think outside the box in a whole new way.

This came in handy with items as simple as how to clean with the Lysol wipes shortage. It has made us come together as a group and be better prepared for the future.

Citizens of Boyle County: The men and women of the Danville 911 center are here and we are ready to help.