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911 dispatchers asking coronavirus-related questions

Departments are trying to glean information from callers to see if first responders are heading into a COVID-19 situation.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — First Coast emergency departments are screening callers for possible COVID-19 exposure to give crews headed to a situation a better chance at protecting themselves.

“That’s our first line of defense is our dispatchers,” Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters, said.

He explained that is why in several First Coast cities and counties dispatchers are asking:

  • Do you have a cough?
  • Do you have a fever?
  • How are you feeling?
  • Where have you traveled?

Wyse said helping those helping you by answering these questions can make a difference.

“Being very honest and forthright in your signs and symptoms or even if you’ve traveled those kinds of situations. It is important going in it’s a possible COVID-19 related call use the proper PPE,” Wyse said.

He added protocols have changed to where only one person may be sent into a call, then have back-up enter if needed, reducing contact.

Putnam County and the St. Augustine Fire Department are following suit having dispatchers ask more questions and crews send fewer personnel.

St. Augustine’s Fire Chief told On Your Side’s Jessica Clark, anyone coming into contact with a first responders will be given a mask: a way to account for asymptomatic patients.

All of those departments say they are fully stocked with personal protective equipment but want to use it wisely and effectively.

“This is a 24/7 commitment these firefighters have made and they’re going to continue to do it and we’re going to protect them as much as we can,” Wyse said.

Wyse stressed the questions do not change response — JFRD will be there to help — this is just more information they can use to protect crews on-scene.

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