As the world hunkers down in the fight against COVID-19, we look to our heroes on the frontlines for inspiration, as we watch them go to work from at least six feet away. While their jobs are to treat our illnesses, answer our emergency calls, or even bring us our Amazon packages, our job is to figure out how to put normal life back together when this is all over. However, it’s becoming abundantly clear that the new normal won’t resemble the old one.
For all the pain it’s brought, the pandemic is teaching us valuable lessons about who we are, and where we can materially improve our society, especially in terms of pandemic response. It’s changing the world in ways we can’t quite decipher yet, but if there’s anything we need nowadays it’s some optimism about what’s to come. Here are some of the key takeaways for public safety as they adapt to the new norm:
Whenever society faces a crisis that requires all hands on deck, we often look back and wonder, “why can’t we always work together like that?” As the pandemic tightens its hold on the world, we see unlikely partners pitch in to help the relief efforts. Everyone, from fortune 500 companies to mom and pop stores, are pitching in where they can to help first responders and healthcare workers fight the virus.
GE, Ford, and even Tesla to name a few, are converting their factories to produce ventilators to meet the surging demand. Numerous companies with stockpiles of masks and various PPE are donating their stocks to do their part.
That’s not to say that Tesla is going to become a healthcare company, but it demonstrates the willingness of the private sector to help out where they can. This spirit of camaraderie can extend itself further: these companies recognize the business value of caring for the greater good. They have a role to play in the brave new world six feet beyond our front doors, which leads us to the next point.
If you had to guess one thing not named PPE that first responders and healthcare providers have asked for throughout the crisis, it’s data. The surge in emergency call volumes and hospital admittances, paired with the sheer uncertainty of the disease, highlights the ever-present need for critical contextual data. Whether it’s helping dispatchers know what resources to send where, and how much caution to give first responders, or helping hospital administrators triage before patients arrive on the ambulance, keeping the information flowing is critical to helping the workers on the frontlines.
As more first responders and healthcare professionals get sick as a result of prolonged exposure, saving time becomes even more critical. Getting data into first responders hands is crucial to helping them make good decisions on the field and in the hospital.
In the world of public safety, being onsite has always been the indisputable norm – being able to respond to any situation quickly is kind of the whole job. But what happens when a pandemic strikes and it’s a liability to have everyone so close together? What happens when a colleague gets sick with an extremely infectious and esoteric virus, and your 9-1-1 center has to be evacuated and sanitized? What happens when your doctors are working overtime but you still need to be seen?
In our lifetimes, these are questions our first responders and healthcare providers have almost never had time to ask. Sure, remote work makes plenty of sense for the private sector, but it’s something 9-1-1 has never had to consider before. Luckily, with some quick thinking and ingenuity, some 9-1-1 centers are making the jump to enable remote call taking in emergency situations. Meanwhile, medical professionals are embracing telemedicine solutions like never before, using video chats and patient portals to see patients without having to risk an infection.
Through VoIP, the internet of things, and platforms like RapidSOS, 9-1-1 and the healthcare system are beginning to embrace remote work. We’re a long way off from this being the norm, but as the rest of the world works from home, they might be joining us soon.
Around the country and indeed the world, little acts of heroism have contributed in a big way to keeping the world turning. It’s not just the public and private sector working together, or people with lots of money going out of their way to spend it on relief: it’s our neighbors, friends, priests and rabbis, finding new ways to help during social distancing.
Neighborhood cops are dropping off food to feed the hungry and homeless; churches are hosting virtual sermons; random folks on social media are sewing masks to send to areas with shortages of PPE; entire apartment complexes are singing together in unity to bring some levity to quarantined lies: people are coming together despite distances and differences to fight this together.
For public safety, it’s a reminder of what they protect and fight for every day: it’s not just human lives, it’s the human spirit. As we all come together in these difficult times, everyone is doing their part, whether that means fighting this on the frontlines, donating our time and money, or simply staying inside.