JOHNSON COUNTY, KS (KCTV) - Inside the Johnson County Emergency Communications Center, some dispatchers are handling calls for law enforcement which would include calls like a robbery or a shooting. Others are answering calls for fire and medical needs. The dispatchers answering those calls are asking new and important questions.

Before firefighters or MED-ACT leave their station, dispatchers are assessing emergencies.

“We really need two things to get to the call and that's the address and what is happening,” Director of Johnson County Emergency Management and Communications Ellen Wernicke said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, dispatchers will now ask more questions to determine if the person who needs help is showing symptoms.

“Fever, shortness of breath, cough,” Wernicke said.

They also want to know about possible exposure to coronavirus or other infectious diseases and recent travels.

“Have you been in contact with anybody who has flu like symptoms,” Wernicke said.

No matter the answer to the questions, help will get there.

First responders are sent while dispatchers continue to gather information. Wernicke says the questions will not slow response times, they’ll use the information to help first responders be prepared.

“We want to make sure our responders are aware of all of the symptoms so they can take appropriate precautions when they are responding to the scene,” Wernicke said.

Dispatch centers around the country including in Indiana are implementing the same 911 call screening.

“We can't have large numbers of first responders taken out whether it's the flu or eventually coronavirus,” Chief of Chesterfield-Union Township Fire Department Jamey Burrows said.

The Johnson County Health Department recommends calling your primary healthcare provider if you have COVID-19 symptoms to discuss whether you should be tested.

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