Local Closures Mean Fewer Calls to Police, Fire Departments

Providers of city services have been forced to be nimble and adaptable in recent weeks, thanks to the ever-dynamic situation that is the global COVID-19 pandemic.
For more than two weeks now, it has been one falling domino after another as sports leagues have folded their seasons, school districts began multi-week closures and governments have gradually canceled public events and shut facilities as well as businesses. As the coronavirus has spread, those state and local governments have had to ensure that residents continue to have access to essential services and don’t have to fear the consequences of losing income, while simultaneously protecting public employees from possible infection.
First responders, for their part, are firing on all cylinders.
“We project to be fully staffed, with PPEs and EMS supplies throughout the duration of this crisis,” South Pasadena Fire Chief Paul Riddle told the City Council last week, referring to personal protective equipment and emergency medical services.
During his briefing on COVID-19 preparations, Riddle noted that calls for service were down about 30% since society began isolating itself as a result of the pandemic.
“That’s a good indication that the message is getting out to the community and they’re adhering to the instructions,” Riddle said. “That 30% reduction, as we kind of look at it, [means] traffic accidents are down. The calls for service are mainly medical related, and that’s kind of the norm throughout the region, from what I’m hearing.”
Police Chief Joe Ortiz also noted about a 35% drop in service calls in the same time frame, again pointing out that traffic collisions and enforcement in general had been reduced as a result.
“As most of you know, there are fewer people on the freeways and fewer people driving around town,” Ortiz added.
The Police Department last week cleaned and sanitized all patrol vehicles, Ortiz continued, and the vehicles are cleaned after each shift as well. The call to service for first responders also means that vacation time and training exercises have been temporarily suspended, in order to ensure fully staffed shifts.
“You may see the helicopter around more,” Ortiz added. “They’ll be flying around our critical facilities in our city to make sure things are the way they should be.”
At the meeting, which can be seen on the city’s website, Riddle also made a plea to residents to not overwhelm local businesses with unnecessary impulse buying, which creates very avoidable problems for other residents and retailers.
“This is not meant to be a joke. It’s not meant to be funny. We do not need a year’s supply of toilet paper,” he said. “I bring this up because panic buying is creating stress, is creating fear and is creating anxiety that’s feeding on itself. It’s not just toilet paper. It’s whatever the panic buy is for that day or week.
“It’s a good idea to have a supply of food or water on hand, medications, just like you would for an earthquake or power outage, but just be mindful that there is no shortage of food or supplies at this time,” Riddle continued. “Stores are being restocked, and if we just start our normal buying habits, there will enough for everybody to go around.”
At a recent City Council meeting, City Manager Stephanie DeWolfe reminded residents that city-owned utilities will not be cutting off services for late payments in light of the ongoing crisis, and those utilities owned by other entities have made similar pledges. Mayor Pro Tem Diana Mahmud noted that even cellphone providers have said they will not penalize late payments during this time.
“All of our residents can be confident that the utilities are on board with the same language we took here in regard to city-owned utilities,” DeWolfe said.