Mesquite using paramedics to pre-screen 911 callers for COVID-19

Mesquite is making changes to the way it answers 911 calls.

Paramedics are now assigned to help take emergency calls and pre-screen callers for COVID-19.

Personal protection equipment have become essential to responding to calls.

In Mesquite, another step is being taken. Changes are happening at its 911 dispatch center.

“To us, we may have been on thousands just like it,” said Lt. Benton Austin. “But to that person on the other line, that might be the first time they’ve called 911.”

It’s where paramedics, like Lieutenant Benton Austin, are now stationed to assist with COVID-19 calls. Dispatch is screening all callers for symptoms.

“Our operators, our dispatchers are asking on every call if anybody is experiencing flu-like symptoms because that could affect police officers as well as fire personnel,” Austin said.

Screened calls that appear to be COVID-related are sent to the paramedic on duty. There are five paramedics assigned at the dispatch center. Each one is working a different shift. The paramedic conducts a video screening for callers who might not need immediate assistance.

“Even though we’re not there, we see them. And we know what they’re going through, and we’re going to be able to get them the right level of care,” Austin said.

Mesquite Fire Chief Mark Kerby says pre-screening helps medics get as much information as possible before they head out on a call. It allows them to be better prepared to care for themselves so they can also care for others.

Mesquite says there are a few other North Texas cities implementing the same process.