Dispatchers play important role amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — It’s National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, which means dispatchers — the ones who pick up the phone when you call 911 — are getting extra thanks.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, dispatchers are playing an even more important role to the community. For example, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Communications unit has been answering calls about new coronavirus-related laws.

“Dispatchers are extremely important because you have now citizens who are not only calling and asking for law enforcement, but they’re also asking us questions,” said Lt. Rob Pollock, who oversees the sheriff’s office communications unit. “(They’re asking) about the laws related to the pandemic, laws about where they can go and where they can be.”

Dispatchers also now go through a checklist with 911 callers to screen them of any possible symptoms of COVID-19. This is done so responding deputies can be prepared with proper equipment if need be.

“They also are really the lifeline for the deputies going out,” Pollock said. “So not only are they telling the deputies where to go, what calls to go to, what the warning signs are and what to look for when they go to calls, they’re also having to make sure the person isn’t also showing signs of being sick.”

The communications unit is also taking more precautions to be safe while doing their jobs.

The radio room at the sheriff’s office has been shut down to only dispatchers, Pollock said. Dispatchers’ temperatures are taken before entering the room, and their equipment is disinfected often.

Pollock said now more than ever, dispatchers are at the front lines keeping people safe during the pandemic, and they deserve recognition.

“They do a great job,” he said. “They love what they do, and they take pride in their job. So the biggest thing I would say is thank you. Thank you for having our backs.”

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