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Dave & Dujanovic: During pandemic, 911 responders changing the way they respond

Police and firefighters responded to reports of shots fired and a two-alarm fire in West Valley City. (Photo: Peter Samore, KSL Newsradio)

SALT LAKE CITY — In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, first responders in Salt Lake City are changing the way they go about answering emergency 911 calls.

Lisa Burnette, who is director of Salt Lake City’s 911 Center, which answers about 750,000 calls a year, joined Debbie Dujanovic and Dave Noriega to discuss the impact coronavirus has had on the center and those who answer the calls.

911 responders and the pandemic

Normally when someone calls to say they’ve fallen and need help, Burnette said, they are not asked about respiratory distress or a fever or having a cough. But they are now, she said.

“The reason we’re doing that is to protect our first responders. So, that even though they know they are responding on a fall, they can be alerted to the possibility of flu-like symptoms at the residence when they arrive,” she said.

“Do callers meet first responders outside if they can — just in case — or do they go inside the home?” Debbie asked.

If the caller can, Burnette said callers are asked to meet responders outside when they arrive. If they can’t, they are asked to move to a larger room if they can, which would provide more space for first responders.

If the patient can’t walk or move, then “It’s business as usual,” Burnette said.

When to call 911

“When should people who are having trouble breathing and are starting to panic call 911?” Dave asked.

“If you are nervous about your health condition, then you need to call 911,” Burnette said. “If someone has questions about COVID-19, 911 is not your avenue. There are other resources for that.

“But when you have serious health concerns… by all means, we want you to call,” she said.

“You’re fully staffed, 24/7?” Debbie asked.

“That’s correct. My staff takes public health very seriously,” Burnett said. “They’re very dedicated and committed to members of the public as well as our first responders. We’re going to do everything that we can in our power to keep our staff healthy so that they’re available to answer the public’s call.”

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line 18004567707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play