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Archived - By-law enforcement in the time of COVID-19

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April 3, 2020
Feature Stories

Working hard to protect our community isn’t new for the employees of the City’s By-law and Regulatory Services Department. But protecting our community during a global pandemic is.

Kris Haarbosch is a supervisor with By-law Enforcement. His role is essential to keeping residents safe during this pandemic. He took a few moments to shed some light on how his work has shifted since COVID-19 arrived in Ottawa.

Man standing in front of a car, wearing a uniform.
By-law supervisors and officers are helping educate residents about how to stay safe. Staying home, physical distancing, and not gathering in groups more than five people – these are how we can all reduce the chances of catching and spreading COVID-19.

What is it like to be a By-law supervisor/officer in Ottawa right now?

We’re always busy, but the volume of calls has really gone up since the pandemic arrived in Ottawa and the Province has directed us to restrict gatherings, both in public and private settings.

On top of that, we are still responding to our regular calls. Residents have been understanding that it has been very busy – they realize this is an unprecedented time in our city.

What is your main goal as a By-law supervisor/officer right now?

Our number one focus right now is protecting everyone’s health and safety. We’re also working hard to educate residents about how the rules we’re enforcing are designed to help people avoid catching and spreading this virus.

I know it’s hard, especially with the nice weather, but it’s so important that everyone respect the rules the Province and City have put in place. That means physical distancing, staying home, and not gathering in groups larger than five people.

What are some of the common things you’re responding to right now related to the pandemic?

All city park facilities and park equipment are closed until further notice, so we’ve had to respond to calls about gatherings in parks. We’re seeing kids on play structures, groups of people playing sports, people using the skateboard parks, and large groups gathering on benches.

We’ve also received calls about big gatherings in backyards, and people getting together in large groups for celebrations like birthdays.

Are there any special protocols in place to keep you safe on the job?

We’ve all been disinfecting our workstations, wearing gloves and washing our hands or using hand sanitizer as much as possible. We’re being really vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting the equipment we use.

We’ve been disinfecting the insides of our vehicles at the start and end of every shift, since there are normally multiple people driving them on any given day. We’ve started having our start- and end-of-shift briefings in our garage bay instead of at the office so that we can still practice physical distancing, and we’re also no longer riding two officers in a vehicle on night shifts.

We’ve also started running virtual meetings so that we can all stay up-to-date without having to be in the same place.

What about when you’re attending calls?

The first thing we do is assess the call to see if it’s safe to even go. When we do attend, we maintain our distance, we use the appropriate personal protective equipment, and we let people know what’s safe and what isn’t.

If you could offer any advice to residents right now, what would that be?

We want to remind people to respect the physical distancing guidelines. It’s good that people are getting outside, but just being outside doesn’t mean you’re safe from the virus. You can still catch it.

What are you doing differently to keep your household safe?

The first thing I’ve changed is no more carpooling to and from work. I also leave my uniform at the office so I’m not bringing anything home from work that I didn’t leave with in the morning. When I do get home, the first thing I do is take a shower. I also wipe down my cellphone as often as possible, which is something people tend to overlook.

How are you and your family staying connected while respecting these physical distancing guidelines?

My brother and I introduced our parents to group FaceTime video calls because we can’t go visit them. After some technical difficulties (like getting the camera to face the right way), we finally got everything up and running. It usually doesn’t take long for my brother or I to start goofing around with the camera though, usually at my parents’ expense.

We’ve also been doing deliveries for each other. I can’t go too long without my mom’s cooking, so luckily my parents are doing take out, and maybe even the odd delivery, even if they just drop it on the porch and run back to their car.

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