Dispatchers discuss work-life during COVID pandemic

Coronavirus

Honolulu dispatchers have been working hard to ensure that first responders and the public remain safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Therefore, the next time you call 9-1-1, be prepared to answer a few COVID-19 related questions.

“We know it’s a life-threatening experience and they’re overwhelmed and excited and we ask them to try and stay calm,” explained 17-year EMS, EMT dispatcher Shawna De Los Santos. “We’re going to ask for their address, their phone number, and what’s going on, and once we know what kind of call it is we will do our screening as far as exposure, any signs or symptoms they might be experiencing, or if they’ve been exposed to anyone with those symptoms.”

HFD, HPD, and EMS dispatchers will ask questions such as, have you traveled in the last 14 days? Have you made contact with anyone who has traveled in the last 14 days? Have you had any flu like symptoms? Have you had contact with someone with flu-like symptoms? Are you a healthcare worker?

If the person answers ‘yes,’ to one of those questions or it’s unknown, then dispatchers make a note to first responders before they arrive on scene.

“It’s called a COVID precaution, so they wear the proper PPE’s, their mask, gloves, their face shields, goggles and gowns,” De Los Santos said.

HPD says the number of crime-related calls, such as break-ins, has gone down but dispatchers have kept busy with COVID-related calls.

“We get a lot of calls regarding, ‘Hey there’s people at the park, or people over there, two people there,’ and they’re concerned they’re not doing the social distancing,” explained HPD radio dispatcher Bobbie Waialae.

EMS said they are still receiving nearly 100 non-emergency calls a day

“Where can I get tested? There are hotlines for that and we ask that they don’t call 911 for non-emergent issues,” said De Los Santos.

Ocean Safety is also reminding the public that they are not in towers.

“We rely a lot on the public now calling in, utilizing 911, it’s very important, call 911 the calls will come straight to an ocean safety dispatcher and then we dispatch our resources by truck, Jet Ski and that’s island-wide daily,” said LT. Norman Skorge, Ocean Safety Communications.

Dispatchers said they’ve also been practicing social distancing and taking their temperatures before work.

“It’s a tough job especially now, so we’re doing the best we can to provide that service to our community and the public,” said Waialae.

“At the same time, it’s rewarding for us to be able to go home at the end of the day knowing you assisted the public the best that you can and keeping our officers safe at the same time.”

This week is also National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

Speak to a registered nurse 24/7 about COVID-19 by calling 808-691-2619

Oahu residents are encouraged to visit the website, oneoahu.org, to get answers to frequently asked questions about Mayor Caldwell’s Stay at Home/Work at Home Order. 

If they do not find an answer to their questions on the site, residents should call the 768-CITY (2489) information hotline or email covidresponse@honolulu.gov.

City staff are available to answer questions and provide clarifications about the order, direct residents to Aloha United Way 211 for social services, and point residents to hawaiicovid19.com for health-related information and concerns.

The Honolulu Police Department is urging the public to report non-emergency issues such as homeless concerns, abandoned vehicles and parking issues through the free Honolulu 311 app. 

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