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Heroes of COVID-19: 911 Dispatchers

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HEROES

911 Dispatch operators are heroes of covid-19.

TUCSON (KVOA) - The pandemic has affected every Tucsonan. Some have done their part by staying at home, others have had to work.

"Can't work from home. All our systems have to be here. They're all encrypted and secured," said Joshua Nicholas, a 911 Dispatch Manager for the Pima County Sheriff's Department. "So there really is no avenue for us to have people working from home."

The Pima County Sheriff's Department Communications Unit plays a crucial part in keeping Tucsonans safe both in normal times and during the pandemic.

"The dispatchers are a vital link to the deputies when they respond to calls," Deputy James Allerton said. "They get information that we wouldn't otherwise get and some of that information can save our lives and the lives of some of the community members we're responding to."

Most dispatchers say they do not feel like heroes, but they had to go the extra mile when Arizona was hit hard by the virus.

Dispatch is a minimum staffing workplace, which means it must maintain a minimum number of workers, even when COVID-19 struck the dispatch center.

"Just maintaining our staffing throughout all of this has been really tough," Nicholas said.

Managers have tried to keep spirits up by putting on events like Telecommunicators Week and offering prizes and perks to employees.

Dispatchers also say they relied on their work relationships to make it through the tough times.

"We have a good team. We try to keep close together," Dispatcher Cindy Henderson said. "It's like our own family, where if you know somebody's having a bad day you check on them. You make sure that they are doing okay."