Onondaga County 911 Center was set to relieve an overflow of calls from NYC early in pandemic

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) New York City 911 calls were at such a high volume at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic New York State turned to Onondaga County to take some of the overflow.

Onondaga County at the time was actually seeing a small decrease in calls and quickly went through an evaluation of how technically to be able to help out.

Julie Corn is Commissioner of the Onondaga County Department of Emergency Communications.

“We had never tested that out before, so we looked into that and brainstormed that for a few days, the need didn’t end up being there but we learned a lot from it. You can’t flip a switch and just kinda make that happen,” she says.

Corn says even though the Onondaga County 911 Center wasn’t needed it has undergone changes because of the pandemic.

It starts with new protocols to make sure everyone working there is healthy and safe.

“If something happens to us that an ambulance can’t get to where it needs to get to, that officer, that firefighter can’t get to where they need to. So we have taken really strict measures to protect our folks,” Corn tells NewsChannel 9.

There are no more visitors of any kind to the center. They’ve arranged it so that dispatchers and supervisors have more room in between them for social distancing. It’s meant opening up a typically unused room.

Everyone gets their temperature checked and they’re monitored for symptoms of COVID.

Corn says overall call volume is down from the average of nearly 1,200 per day to around 1,000.

“I think a lot of people assume we’re getting a ton of COVID related calls but the community really did just a great job right at the beginning of this thing to make sure they could give them the appropriate care for the appropriate need, so having that Upstate Triage hotline and the County Executive really messaging to call your doctor before you call 911. That’s really impacted the volume for us and kept it at a very reasonable amount,” says Corn.

She says they were busy with calls for social gatherings, and non-essential businesses being open during the first couple weeks, right after the Onondaga County Executive suggested people report these violations through 911.

Those same calls, Corn reports, have now dropped to about five per day for non-essential businesses open and roughly 15 for groups of people gathered.

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