Hennepin County dispatchers adjust their workflow around the pandemic

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Inside the Hennepin County Dispatch Center, the workflow is much different these days.

New questions, such as "Do you have any flu-like symptoms?" have become part of the routine for 911 dispatchers like Cindy Galland.

"I have never seen anything like this," Galland said.

Dialogue with callers isn't all that's changed amid the coronavirus pandemic. Dispatchers are now working longer shifts, they have assigned seats and keyboards and they're spaced farther apart and wearing protective gear.

Director of Emergency Communications Tony Martin says the changes were necessary to keep an essential agency going.

"We are changing their lives, just as everyone's lives are changing right now — and they are true sports," Martin said. "They understand the job they got into, and they have to make these changes."

As dispatchers adapt to the new policies, they are also working to protect those on the front lines. Instead of having officers come to each caller's location, Galland has been letting people know they can have a law enforcement call them to assess the situation first.

No matter what, work doesn't stop for 911 dispatchers, Galland said.

"Thats what we agreed to do when we took this job. We knew it was a job that we could never work remotely from home," she said. "… Our biggest priority is the community, and we are here to help and support the community in any way that we can."