911 dispatchers discuss protocol for answering COVID-19 patients

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WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Throughout the pandemic, first responders have been quick to help those who have contracted COVID-19. On some of those calls, people are suffering from worsening symptoms of the virus too.

Dispatch Communications Supervisor Carla Turner said difficulty breathing and headaches are the main symptoms that dispatchers have heard on 911 calls. As the virus continues to spread, Turner said she wants the community to know they are in good hands if they dial those 3 numbers.

At the beginning of the pandemic locally in March, Wichita Falls 911 dispatchers received information from the health department to put warnings on homes of people who were tested for COVID-19.

But recently, dispatchers no longer receive information from the health department.

“Our officers, fire department and sheriff’s office automatically know to use proper precautions anyway on anybody that they deal with,” Turner said. “It’s so widespread so they pretty much know to just use their proper precautions that they were trained to use.”

Wichita Falls Fire Chief Ken Prillaman said the Wichita Falls Fire Department has used proper PPE on calls for years before the pandemic and that the virus has only increased that precaution.

“Where possible they don’t even enter the room that the patient is located in. If the patient is upright, able to talk and seems to be okay, they’ll interview that patient from 8, 12, 15 feet away,” Prillaman said.

Turner said when dispatchers get a call for a covid patient, sometimes patients complain of symptoms like difficulty breathing or headaches.

“Sometimes they say they’re positive for COVID and sometimes they won’t but anytime we get a difficulty breathing call we send a first responder anyway. AMR, they do ask the COVID questions, all the questions of that patient and they respond properly,” Turner said.

Being a 911 dispatcher can be a high-pressure job especially during a pandemic. But Turner said the community is in good hands if they ever need help.

“I want the community to know they’ve got professionals working for them. Anybody that calls us, it makes me feel good that we’re gonna handle anything our community needs,” Turner said.

Professionals taking care of the community as the community works to survive the pandemic any way possible.

Chief Prillaman also said he’s proud of the way the WFFD has protected themselves throughout the pandemic.

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