HOWLAND, Ohio (WYTV) – The Trumbull County 911 Center is taking a big staffing hit due to the pandemic. Currently, they are dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak.
“It’s been very challenging,” said Ernie Cook, director of the Trumbull County 911 Center.
Going from one person testing positive almost three weeks ago to now 12 employees off work for either coming down with the virus or showing symptoms, it’s a number that equals about a third of the center’s staff.
“They’re following all the directions that they possibly can. Unfortunately, this happened and it happened kind of quickly,” said county commissioner Frank Fuda.
Cook says they’ve already taken precautions by performing temperature checks, making employees wear masks at all times inside the building, practicing social distancing, wiping down work stations before and after shifts, plus bringing in air filters and a commercial company to deep clean and sanitize the building.
They’re also working with the Trumbull County Combined Health District and Emergency Operations Center to come up with a plan should more employees be affected or it becomes necessary to move those healthy dispatchers out of the building.
“That’s first and foremost because even individuals, after they travel through their period of quarantine, we can’t be returning them back to a location that still has some, for lack of a better term, contamination. We’ve got to get them in a clean spot so they can do their job safely and feel comfortable,” said Chief James Pantalone, with the Emergency Operations Center.
Another part of the plan would be to consolidate channels so that dispatchers can still do the same work with less staff.
Cook says luckily they have a system where they’re virtually connected to other public safety answering points or PSAPs in Lordstown and Niles, meaning 911 calls coming into the center could be answered there, too.
“We again have to improvise, adapt and overcome. We have several scenarios in place and one of those will be skeleton crew [and] we’ll have call takers at other PSAPs,” Cook said.