Saturday, January 24, 2009


There's an article here about a crisis in Emergency Medical Services. I thought the sidebar held interesting information.

Come to your rescue

"If you want EMTs to arrive in time to save your life, you need to do more than just dial 911 and pray really hard. You also need to heed the findings of a recent study published in Academic Emergency Medicine and take these four steps to eliminate EMS obstacles."

Show the way

"A wrong address is the most common reason emergency services are delayed, according to the study. After you give your address to 911, ask the dispatcher to read it back to you so you can correct any errors they (or you) might have made."

This is misleading. Your phone number reveals your address to Dispatch unless you're on a cell. However, Dispatch only knows what they've been told. If you live on the corner, behind the garage, up the stairs in the back, second door on the right, give some directions or rescuers might spend some time milling around in the yard.

Flip the light on

"The right address won't do the EMTs much good if they can't read your house or apartment number in the dark. Flick on every outside light. And take the time now — before you're clutching your chest — to install reflective house numbers."

My service area is 110 sq miles with over 300 residents. We have two subdivisions* with no posted house numbers and no street signs.** We have a few houses with a street address where there is no access from that street.*** Interesting, no? We have, a couple of times, zeroed in on the house with the lights on, and so far, haven't surprised someone just up for a midnight snack. If I -- someone relatively familiar with the area -- am sometimes confused,**** what chance to the city boys in the ambulance have? Clearly mark your house. Do not wait for local government to do it for you.

X marks the spot

"Tell the dispatcher where you'll be inside the house. You don't want them to waste time on a room-to-room search. Or have someone escort the EMTs to your side; in the study, doing this cut 24 lifesaving seconds off the average rescue time."

This hasn't been a problem for us. Usually, someone is standing on the porch, desperately waving and yelling, "Hurry up!" If you're alone, collapsed in your bedroom, holding your chest with one hand and the portable phone with the other, tell Dispatch where you are, and that you forgot to . . .

Unlock the door

"Obvious? In their panic, a lot of people forget to slide the bolt or turn the key. If you're alone and lose consciousness, the EMTs will have to burn critical minutes trying to break down the door — or doors — to reach you. Give them a clear path."

Yeah, we'll break down the door, but not before we've spent time making sure no one's coming to answer it, and then notifying Dispatch we're about to break into a house.***** You might want us in there sooner than that.

My best advice

Take time to think about an emergency situation before you have one on your hands. Even the smallest consideration of what would I do if this happened -- will work in your benefit should you need help.

*I'm not sure you'd call them subdivisions, more like 20+acre rancherias.
** Montana, last best place to hide out or hole up.
***If I wanted company, I wouldn't have moved out in the middle of god-awful nowhere.
****Not lost, thank-you.
*****Again, hoping we're not about to surprise someone just up for a midnight snack.


  1. This is great information. My husband sells the 911 hardware and software to the call centers. He always brings home good stories about 911 dispatch. We also go to the local awards banquet where they play the best calls of the year. People are so FUNNY!

  2. Oy. That's in my top 5 goals as an EMS provider -- DO NOT SOUND LIKE A DORK ON THE RADIO.

    So far I've had to settle for I'M NOT THE WORST ONE ON THE RADIO.

    But hope springs eternal.


  3. EMTs are *so* smart! We had a driver hit by her bus (she forgot to set the parking brake and it rolled forward) and someone called 911. I heard the siren in my second story office and, when the vehicle pulled into my yard, raced down the steps.

    There were 150 driver in blue uniforms, milling about. The EMT spotted me in my office attire (I made record time down the stairs), correctly surmised that I was in charge, and asked me where the injured person was.

    I, who had had the advantage of a second story view, knew exactly where the problem was, ordered everyone else to back off (I can use the VOICE when I need to) and led them to the spot.

    Smart EMTs and so focused. I was impressed.

  4. 150 people milling around. !

  5. Yes--all the bus drivers who work for me had just returned from their morning runs...just what we needed, a crowd!


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