5 things to know about calling 911 during coronavirus pandemic

First responders offer tips to help them stay safe from COVID-19


First responders are hoping to stay safe while they continue to respond to emergency calls in Central Florida during the coronavirus pandemic.

Orange County Fire Rescue Department offered these tips while calling 911.

1. As always, only call 911 if you are experiencing an emergency. If you think you may have COVID-19, call your primary caregiver or clinic, or make use of one of the hotlines set up right now. Most medical facilities want you to call first if you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms so they can best help you and minimize exposures.

2. If you do believe you have COVID-19 and need to call 911, keep in mind:

  • The same rule applies, only call 911 in an emergency.
  • Immediately tell the dispatcher you’re speaking to that you or someone in your home may have the virus.
  • Be honest and forthcoming when the dispatcher asks you a series of questions related to recent travel, or flu-like symptoms. It’s important to answer accurately so the responding crews know how best to help you and how best to keep themselves save.

3. Meet the responding crews outside your home if at all possible. Obviously, depending on the nature of the emergency, this may not always be possible. But if it is, please do so. This helps minimize the potential of exposure to crews. If they do not need to enter the residence, it’s better they remain outside.

4. First responders are not immune to contracting COVID-19, so please continue to exercise social distancing around crew members and they’ll do the best they can to do the same for you. In addition, in order to continue to help minimize exposures, OCFRD crew members are placing surgical masks on all patients as a precaution right now. Don’t be alarmed if they provide you with a surgical mask and your injury is not related to respiratory or flu – many people are asymptomatic and do not know they have the virus. It’s just a precautionary measure to keep everyone as safe as possible.

5. There are many ways people in the community can do their parts to help get results right now.

  • Donate blood
  • Adhere to the stay-at-home orders – We’ve already seen a reduction in call volume and with that reduction, comes less of a potential to expose crews
  • Check on elderly neighbors – those who may need help getting groceries. Leave groceries on their step as to minimize exposure.
  • Only take what you need. The grocers have not reported any distribution shortages. Items are running out because people are buying more than what they need.
  • Some local first responders are looking for donations of masks and other personal protection equipment. If you’re able to assist, contact your local station to see if and what they may need.

BONUS TIP: We have seen plenty of examples of the community banding together to help others with acts of kindness. If you’re able to and would like to help you can combine supporting first responders with supporting local businesses and order takeout deliveries for them.

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