This year's celebration of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week looks a little different amid the coronavirus pandemic, with dinners and parties being postponed and colleagues sitting farther apart to comply with social distancing guidelines. However, supervisors are still recognizing the hard work and dedication of 9-1-1 dispatchers with gestures such as sending in individually-wrapped food items in Fargo, N.D., authorizing special themed days in Henderson, Ky., and letting dispatchers work out of uniform in St. Clair County, Mich.
The Portland Bureau of Emergency Management in Oregon has been receiving a number of daily calls reporting residents who are not following social distancing requirements since a stay-at-home order was put into place last month. Police officers have been focusing on educating the community rather than issuing citations, and they have asked residents to call the department's nonemergency number, not 9-1-1, to inform them of violations.
The availability of text-to-9-1-1 service has been expanding throughout the US, but a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report says texts only represented 0.09% of 9-1-1 contacts in 2018. The number of public safety access points with text-to-9-1-1 capability appears to be around 33%, according to a Federal Communications Commission registry.
Managing work-life balance and preserving your mental health as a 9-1-1 dispatcher can be challenging, but it helps if you look for one positive aspect of even the hardest day. Additional tips include staying open to learning new technology that makes your job easier, restricting your time to venting about stressful situations to a half-hour and taking sick days when needed.
Executive orders issued by Gov. Asa Hutchinson provide for first responders and health care employees to seek workers' compensation benefits if they become ill with COVID-19 while on the job. One of the orders specifies which health care workers have immunity to legal liability when responding to a coronavirus-related emergency.
Several US cities are turning to 9-1-1 technology to fight the coronavirus by using software to monitor outbreaks, route ambulances to less crowded hospitals and track social distancing practices. Cities such as Seattle and New Orleans are using data gathered from public safety agencies to learn more about the spread of coronavirus cases.