Leon Co. 911 dispatchers sent to DeSoto Co. to help in Hurricane Ian’s aftermath

Leon Co. dispatchers in Southwest Florida
Published: Oct. 5, 2022 at 4:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 5, 2022 at 6:45 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Emergency dispatchers from Leon County are stepping in to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.

A group of local dispatchers has been working in DeSoto County, northeast of Port Charlotte.

They’re helping first responders handle a surge in 911 calls there.

Four team members from Leon County were deployed Monday and have been working every day for 12 to 14 hours.

David Odom, director of the Tallahassee-Leon County Consolidated Dispatch Agency, said they’re among more than a hundred dispatchers sent to areas hit by Hurricane Ian, answering calls to help people in need.

“There’s a lot of damage,” Odom said. “And so there’s a lot of ‘I’ve lost a loved one, I can’t find a loved one, can you help send someone out here to help me search, and can you help me make contact with someone that I haven’t heard from in a couple of days.’”

Their main purpose is to reduce the workload for staff there who have been swamped ever since the storm hit.

“The folks that are working in that center, the staff, have been doing this for long hours, 15-16 hours a day,” Odom said. “And so to give them some relief, to give them some support, is very critical. And so some of those folks were actually able to get out of the center and take a breather and see what kind of damage they sustained after the hurricane. They haven’t been able to get home to even maybe assess their own personal situation.”

Odom said one of the team members they sent is a peer support counselor, who is not only answering calls, but also helping dispatchers deal with the toll that this work takes on their mental health.

He said his team will be in DeSoto until Saturday.

Soon after that, he expects to send more dispatchers to help out in hard-hit Lee County.