HOLBROOK – As part of National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week, Director Steve Hooke and the Holbrook Regional Emergency Communication Center (HRECC) would like to present a series of informational messages to help teach the public about what the members of the HRECC do on a daily basis, including more about the staff who work there and their varied responsibilities.
Each day this week, the HRECC will present a different question and answer to highlight the vital role its staff members play in the communities the HRECC serves.
Question: How has the Holbrook Regional Emergency Communication Center responded to the COVID-19 pandemic?
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, all HRECC telecommunicators have followed guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as local health officials, related to the assessment of a potential patient. They are asking all callers who report a medical emergency if the patient has a fever, trouble breathing or a cough.
The purpose of asking viral illness screening questions early during a call is to provide additional situational awareness for first responders.
When someone calls 911, the standard greeting by telecommunicators is, “911, this line is being recorded, what is the location (or address) of your emergency?” The telecommunicator will, within the first moments of the call, determine the exact location of the emergency (including the town, apartment number, etc.) and the emergency or primary issue.
For callers reporting medical emergencies, telecommunicators will continue to ask callers a series of standard questions based on the complaint. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to these standard questions, all callers requesting a police, fire or medical response have been asked additional questions such as: “Have you had a fever, cough or shortness of breath?” and “Have you or anyone inside your home been sick?”
The telecommunicator will then instruct someone in the home to meet police or fire personnel at the door, if they are able to do so. This is done in an effort to have a single member of the department assess the situation and limit possible exposure to the coronavirus.
The HRECC would like to remind residents that the safety of community members and emergency personnel is of the utmost importance. It is imperative that information about possible viral symptoms is relayed accurately and in a timely fashion to first responders, and asking additional health screening questions early during a call allows telecommunicators to do so. Emergency personnel can protect themselves with personal protective equipment and need to do so if especially if there is a valid concern for their health based on information provided by a caller.
HRECC leadership has also been in constant communication with its partner agencies and local Boards of Health to ensure that they are receiving the appropriate information and guidelines to disseminate to first responders.
“Just like police, fire and EMS personnel, our Center has remained fully operational during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” HRECC Director Steve Hooke said. “First responders remain ready to respond immediately to 911 emergencies and urgent calls for service.”
“Our telecommunicators have worked as a team long before this virus became a pandemic and that is very apparent as they continue to help each other through this situation with strength and support,” Deputy Director Lauren Mielke said. “Our team consists of mothers, fathers and grandparents. Some have small children at home who they are now trying to find care for as they continue to come to work. Some have spouses who work in healthcare and worry about their well-being. It truly takes a village and the telecommunicators of the HRECC are the best of the best. They work as a team but are also each other’s family away from home.”
Every year during the second week of April, dispatchers and telecommunications personnel in the public safety community are honored as part of National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week.
This year, National Public Safety Telecommunicator Week 2020 takes place from April 12-18.
This week-long event, which first began in 1981 by the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office in California, has grown into a nationwide celebration to recognize and thank those who dedicate their lives to serving the public as telecommunicators.
For more information, visit www.npstw.org.