It could have been a disaster for the Snohomish County 911 dispatch center in September.
After working 1½ shifts in a room with other radio dispatchers, in the glass-walled building that’s like a nerve center for all first-responders in Snohomish County, a dispatcher learned her COVID-19 test had come back positive. “We had to scramble, and ended up testing about a third of our staff,” Snohomish County 911 director Kurt Mills said.
At a given time, up to 25 people are running the emergency lines in the county of 800,000 residents. Another 40 employees work in IT and support roles.
Staffers alerted dispatchers who were getting ready to come in for their shifts. The Everett Fire Department helped with rapid test kits for everyone who worked with the infected employee. Some were tested twice, to be sure. Results came back in 20 minutes. All were negative, and the employee has since recovered.
But it could’ve been far worse, if Snohomish County 911 hadn’t been preparing for this exact scenario since the pandemic began.