San Francisco 911 dispatch fatigued over coronavirus calls

Inside San Francisco's 911 Emergency Operations Center on Turk Street, dispatchers are fielding more distress calls concerning the coronovirus.  

"It's just a higher stress level in the department right now," said Burt Wilson, an 11-year veteran.

"It seems like one of every two or three calls you are getting some type of pandemic response," 

All dispatchers wear masks and work stations are spread out to maintain social distancing. A COVID-19 outbreak there could be disastrous to the city.

"Our processes have changed. The way move around the building has changed," said Wilson.

"That was a challenge. So we did things like buy everyone their own keyboard. We tried to limit the change in shifts," said San Francisco Department of Emergency Management Director Mary Ellen Carroll.

So far just one 911 dispatcher has tested positive for the Coronavirus and that person is self-quarantining at home. 

Dispatchers are working anywhere from 10-14 hour shifts these days. 

"Then you have to go home to take of your kids and cook and clean. That's a stress level in and of itself," Wilson said.

Wilson said the people who call in with COVID-19 symptoms sound scared. The dispatchers ask them a list of questions about their condition and possible exposures. They try to remain calm with the caller.

"Just console them. Sometimes we stay on the phone until the paramedic or the fire department answers, just to make them feel better," he said.

"They are there to help us save lives and follow the rules and practices we need to be doing during this time of COVID-19," said San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

San Francisco has about 130, 911 dispatchers. They are very often the first, first responder.

"They really have such a difficult job that is unappreciated. And in times like this it is even more difficult," said Carroll.

"A lot of people don't see us because we are in the back drop. But we are trying to work for the citizens to help in this COVID-19 situation," said Wilson.