DC-area fire and police departments make coronavirus contingency plans as first responders get sick

As coronavirus spreads, first responders are also getting sick. As a result, D.C.-area departments are planning ahead to ensure they can avoid any changes to emergency response.

At last release, D.C. Deputy Mayor Kevin Donahue said 12 police officers tested positive for the coronavirus and 154 were quarantined.

“They can absorb several hundred outages before we get to the point where we have a planned diminishment of service,” Donahue said at a news conference Thursday.

Both D.C. Fire & EMS and D.C. Police assess call volumes and crime to estimate the staffing needed. Police can absorb 10% of employees calling out sick, which is about 400 people. But once the numbers rise past 30% of the department’s 4,000 employees, Donahue said the unit will reach a breaking point.

“Police, we’re talking 800 to 1,000 people before they’d have to start coming to the mayor and advising her of taking more extraordinary steps,” Donahue said.

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Officers will work overtime and supervisors will fill other roles before shifts get combined, Donahue said.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, four police department employees have tested positive for coronavirus, two of them police officers, and 29 are in quarantine, said Capt. Tom Jordan. However, he said the force is operating as it normally would.

“We’re working on contingency plans in case that changes, but we’re looking ahead to make sure we are ready for that in case that does come,” said Jordan.


Editor’s Note: This article has been changed to reflect that Montgomery County’s four positive cases were among employees, not just among police officers.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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