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Five Ways 9-1-1 Is Preparing for COVID-19

March 13, 2020
COVID-19 and 9-1-1

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, a global pandemic. As citizens scramble for canned goods and prepare to ride the virus out, our emergency services are gearing up to respond to the rapidly changing crisis.

They’re taking extra precautions inside and outside their Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) to ensure that they can respond efficiently to emergencies, and that their first responders are healthy enough to do so. The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) held a webinar on everything ECCs need to know about COVID-19, which covered their guidance to EMS and first responders. Check out these five ways 9-1-1 is preparing for COVID-19:

Shuffling shifts and remote work

As offices around the country are sending their workers home, many ECCs are doing their best to minimize the exposure of their telecommunicators to potential carriers while maximizing their ability to serve their communities. They’re shuffling around shifts to avoid rush hour commutes and instituting the suspension of trainings, vacations, and other nonessential leaves of absences. As conditions potentially worsen, implementing mandatory overtime and other shift modifications might also become necessary.

As the situation progresses, some agencies are considering policies around allowing administrative staff to telecommute, implementing quarantine-at-work, and even dispatch/call-taking from home.

Contingency plans for reduced workforces

Although it’s unclear just how infectious the COVID-19 will be, many ECCs are planning for an inevitably reduced workforce. Even if they might not be able to operate at full capacity, 9-1-1 still has a job to do, especially in light of a global pandemic. These reduced operations plans include:

  • Consolidating and closing down nonessential radio channels
  • Consolidating primary dispatch channels
  • Cease monitoring 10-digit administrative phone lines
  • Quarantining at work

The severity of these measures scales with the anticipated reduction in workforce, and are ideally not to be implemented without extreme need.

Sanitizing work stations

ECCs are taking common sense steps to improve workplace hygiene by putting up signs and issuing reminders to employees to wash their hands, clean their workstations, and to reduce unnecessary contact with sick individuals. 

Some are even restricting communication center access to communications personnel only, so that cops and firefighters out in the field won’t inadvertently bring virus particles in. In addition, ECCs are wiping down phones, computers, time clocks, and door handles during and between shifts to improve hygiene throughout their offices.

Leveraging technology for efficient response

ECCs are relying on the latest technology to make responses more efficient, not only to provide better outcomes for callers, but also to limit the amount of time first responders have to spend out in the field. 

By using technology like RapidSOS, ECCs are able to monitor calls coming into their jurisdiction about the virus, and visually cluster calls with features like Jurisdiction View. In addition, telecommunicators are able to leverage data from the RapidSOS Clearinghouse, such as MedicAlert profile information, accurate caller location, and more, to guide the right first responders appropriately.

Jurisdiction View feature within RapidSOS Portal

Thousands of ECC’s are using RapidSOS today. Agencies that don’t yet have access can claim their free account at www.rapidsosportal.com.

Coming together as a community

Our nation’s 6,300 ECCs are the backbone of our emergency response process. Without 9-1-1 telecommunicators going into work every day, answering our calls in the most challenging moments of our lives, our public safety infrastructure would crumble. 

We are grateful to see the entire industry pull together in this time of crisis. Not only are 9-1-1 Directors and Supervisors supporting each other by sharing information and policies, technology companies are also stepping in to help fill the gaps. We’re proud of the work that is being done to support our heroes behind the headset during this uncertain time.

2-1-1 and 9-1-1

If you have general inquiries about COVID-19, call 2-1-1 for more information. If you’re experiencing symptoms, stay home! Only call 9-1-1 if you experience severe symptoms, have trouble breathing, or cannot commute to the hospital on your own power. Check out the CDC’s latest guidance for more information.

RapidSOS support & training

For RapidSOS users, we’re working to maximize responsiveness and support during this time. If you need assistance with anything RapidSOS related, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at support@rapidsos.com, or to your customer success manager.

We are also available to provide additional training to help your team harness RapidSOS tools and services to support your mission. To request an additional training, please reach out to your CSM.

If you are not yet a RapidSOS user and have questions about how your agency can leverage our technology, get in touch here.

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