Birmingham first responders expect increase in 911 calls for COVID-19 cases, lay out plan


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Birmingham city councilors recently announced a plan to provide more than $500,000 to purchase personal protection equipment for police, fire and rescue and public works staff in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Battallion Chief Sebastian Carillo said the fire chief and executive staff meet multiple times, daily to plan and track local trends for the coronavirus. A task force has also been assembled to respond to the crisis.

“So when we use a task force, it’s normally an engine and a rescue unit that’ll be grouped together, they’ll be responding together on these calls,” Carillo said. “What happens is you can identify priorities based on areas of town that may be receiving more of these calls, we can simply move those resources to that side of town.”

Carillo said this approach will keep normal operating procedures from getting overwhelmed. Since an increase in 911 calls is expected, more public safety dispatchers have been made available to take calls and ask more detailed questions when screening the calls.

“The most important thing to remember is when we do make a response on someone that’s expected to have coronavirus our public safety dispatchers go through a series of questions and based on the answers to those questions we either increase or decrease the level of protection that we use when we respond to that person,” he said.

Members of the education division of Birmingham Fire and Rescue are giving out pamphlets with important information pertaining to COVID-19 to the public. You may find one on your car windshield as staff members work to get the information to you while also reducing the risk for hand-to-hand contact. Fire engines and rescue units will also be equipped with the pamphlets for distribution.

Carillo recommends citizens research the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stay informed and learn the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 so they will know when it is appropriate to call 911 or to call their primary care physician.

“The worst thing that we could do is panic and be afraid, you know, we could weather this it’s just going to take cooperation, participation and planning,” Carillo said. “We’ve taken care of the planning side, you know, all we ask is that our citizens cooperate with what we’re doing, you know, follow the warnings from the [Alabama Department of Public Health] and let’s limit social contact. If we can do that then we can overcome this together.”


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