Dispatchers receiving more calls related to COVID-19 symptoms, concerns

Posted at 9:47 PM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 23:21:25-04

PARMA, Ohio — The coronavirus may change how first responders respond to your calls.

Since the spread of COVID-19, Parma dispatchers say there has been a spike in 911 calls. We’re told they receive about 14,000 calls a year.

Instead of people using resources like the state hotline, Parma fire and EMS spokesperson TJ Martin says residents are dialing 911 concerned about their health and possible symptoms related to COVID-19.

“The panic has set in. We need people to just sit back,” Martin said. “They’re calling with anything. They’re calling with a myriad of different symptoms. What we don’t want is for people to call in and say I have this, this and this and you get there and it’s really not bad.”

Martin says those calls will soon drain his team.

“At that point we’re gonna overwhelm our healthcare system and we’re not going to be able to accommodate the people that are truly sick.”

He says each call also puts first responders at risk

“Every time we come out we have the potential to exposing someone to COVID-19. We cannot maintain that six-foot distance. We cannot practice social distancing,” Martin said.

But dispatchers are helping by prioritizing life-threatening emergencies.

“They have to ask particular questions now,” Martin said.

When dealing with calls related to COVID-19, Martin says those questions will include; do you have a fever and have you been in contact with anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

“We are even asking people that if they are that sick and they have the ability to meet the ambulance outside please do so that way we don’t expose even more people,” Martin said.

A spokesperson for Parma Police Department tells News 5 they are taking a similar approach by limiting call responses and interactions with the public.

“Our mission is to care for you, for the community. Every fire department every police department is the same,” Martin said. “We need to make sure that we take care of our mission and we serve our community in the safest way possible.”

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