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911 dispatchers: Emergency calls come with new questions during COVID-19 pandemic

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SOUTH SIOUX CITY, NE (KTIV) -- 911 dispatchers are helping protect first responders unlike ever before.

Regardless of the type of call, dispatchers will help keep those responding to the scene safe, by "screening" you with a list of questions.

"911 where is your emergency" is often the first line of communication during an emergency. Over the past few months, it's been even more important to make sure EMTs, firefighters, and police officers who might come face to face with COVID-19, are staying healthy.

"Our main goal is to make sure that the officers get to the public and help and that we are able to make sure that they both maintain their safety," said Ellinger.

Now emergency calls, come with new questions.

"We ask each person when they call if they have a fever, cough, or trouble breathing or if anyone is being quarantined in their home for COVID-19 or exposure to someone who has COVID-19," said Ellinger.

Ellinger said if the caller answers yes to any one of those questions, dispatchers will report a positive screening.

"We want to make sure that the officers use the proper precautions when they go into these homes or not go into them at all if possible," said Ellinger. "Just having that little bit of information lets them know so they can be mentally prepared to go into that home as well as physically by using their gloves and masks."

Ellinger said if a caller tells them they have COVID-19, they're able to "mark" the home for the virus for two to three weeks.

"To just let us know that there is a COVID-19 positive person in that home," said Ellinger. "It only stays on there for that brief time and just alerts us that officers or rescue responders should use the appropriate level of caution when they go to that home."

Ellinger said they may also request the person calling, to put on a mask when first responders get out there, to add another layer of protection for both first responders and themselves.

Click here for the latest news and information on the COVID-19 coronavirus.

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Michaela Feldmann

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