Spotlight: Oklahoma County 9-1-1
During the COVID-19 pandemic, first responders have faced many challenges. The dispatchers and first responders at 9-1-1 ACOG PSAP, Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) have faced staffing shortages, keeping their staff healthy and the change in call volume.
OCSO answers emergency calls and dispatches law enforcement for Arcadia, Luther, Jones, Choctaw, Harrah, Nicoma Park, Forest Park, Spencer, Valley Brook, and unincorporated Oklahoma County. They also answer emergency calls and dispatch fire departments throughout the county.
At the onset of COVID-19, OCSO built in overtime to deal with the staffing necessary during the outbreak. “We were down two dispatchers, who both self-quarantined,” Jill Stover, OCSO Communications Division Supervisor said. “Both dispatchers were able to get a COVID-19 test, and both came back negative. They’re back at work now.”
Dispatchers have been dealing with not only the public’s stress about this health crisis, but their own personal stress. “We have encouraged our staff to talk about their concerns and we remind them that they are there for each other too,” Stover said. “The job our 9-1-1 dispatchers do is important, and there are many people counting on them.”
OCSO has taken the health of their dispatchers seriously and closed the 9-1-1 center to outside personnel. “Dispatch at this time is closed to on-duty officers, deputies and off-duty dispatchers,” Stover said. “If there are items that need to be passed from dispatch to patrol, the items are passed through a window.”
In mid-March, when stay-at-home orders were issued, OCSO’s 9-1-1 call volume was slower than normal because everyone was staying at home. “The call volume increased during April, but it is averaging out now,” Stover said.
The type of calls OCSO has been receiving is different, Stover reports. “Property crime calls are down, as are residential and business alarm calls. But domestics, disturbances, and welfare checks are up.” She also said the DUI reports are up, as well as children calling 9-1-1 while playing on cell phones.
As Oklahoma County reopens, Stover reflected on what she has learned during this unprecedented time. “It’s important to be cautious and to educate yourself. Don’t panic. Listen to the warnings and make sure you have a plan in place. And that plan should include having reserves.”
OCSO Day Shift staff (from bottom left): Helen White, Crystal Ford, Jill Stover, middle and Logan Larsen