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Mitigate COVID-19 Absenteeism: Protect 911 Telecommunicators

The resilience of our nation's emergency response system depends on our 911 workforce's ability to report for duty. Critical communication, response and surge capacity rely on dedicated, trained 911 telecommunicators and support staff to enable 911 calls to be answered, processed and dispatched. This page contains general concepts you can use to prepare and take action in order to help your 911 agency protect your workers' psychological health and well-being.

Prepare your workforce for what is to come before the surge takes place

Organize peer support—staff-to-staff and family-to-family—to provide assistance with tangible needs like childcare, dependent care, pet care, and food and medication delivery.
Assist staff to locate resources to establish emergency plans for childcare, dependent care, pet care and family communication to mitigate absenteeism due to urgent needs at home.
Encourage staff to pre-arrange their home to accommodate quarantine or isolation should the staff member require quarantine or become ill (as not to spread infection to other household members).
Develop a plan to provide boarding on or near the work site for staff who are unable to commute, have a long commute or are concerned about infecting family and friends.
Establish workforce housing by setting up dormitories, acquiring hotel space, or converting unused areas of the facility.
Ensure plans account for non-telecommunicator staff (e.g., administration, billing, supplies, IT, GIS, maintenance, etc.).
Consider setting up shuttle service for employees, or designate drivers for staff working unusual shifts or prolonged hours.
Check with your local and state emergency operations centers to identify available resources and plans that may help with this need.
Encourage staff to develop a personal stress management plan to address exercise, nutrition, sleep, mindfulness and relaxation.
Provide staff with guidance and resources to support personal stress management. Additional information is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): see Taking Care of Your Emotional Health and Stress and Coping.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has useful behavioral health resources on COVID-19 and coping, including a fact sheet for Tips for Social Distancing, Quarantine and Isolation.
Pre-identify behavioral health resources in your area such as local behavioral health providers, American Red Cross chapters, Medical Reserve Corps units, telemental health services, as well as grief and loss resources for staff who may lose patients, colleagues, or loved ones.
Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to identify behavioral health providers in your area. Identify behavioral health providers in your area that may have specific experience treating EMS clinicians/911 telecommunicators.
View the American Psychological Association's Grief: Coping with the Loss of Your Loved One.

Support your workforce effectively during the surge

911 telecommunicators may not be able to use the coping mechanisms that they typically rely on to manage stress. Teaching and encouraging the use of simple relaxation techniques may help to decrease their physiological arousal levels and focus on something besides the situation at hand.

Download this guidance

This guidance was developed by the Federal Healthcare Resilience Task Force (HRTF). The HRTF is leading the development of a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. healthcare system to facilitate resiliency and responsiveness to the threats posed by COVID-19. The Task Force's EMS/Pre-Hospital Team is comprised of public and private-sector EMS and 911 experts from a wide variety of agencies and focuses on responding to the needs of the pre-hospital community. This team is composed of subject matter experts from NHTSA OEMS, CDC, FEMA, USFA, U.S. Army, USCG and non-federal partners representing stakeholder groups and areas of expertise. Through collaboration with experts in related fields, the team develops practical resources for field providers, supervisors, administrators, medical directors and associations to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Primary Point of Contact: NHTSA Office of EMS, nhtsa.ems@dot.gov, 202-366-5440