A new state 911 mandate has created some confusion on the phone lines in Putnam County, but is helping to save lives in medical emergencies, says Dave Costin, Putnam County 911 director.
The Indiana State Legislature required 911 centers to implement an Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) program in 2003. Putnam County 911 activated its EMD program last August and, according to Costin, the system is meeting all requirements.
So what is EMD? Just as an aircraft pilot goes through a check list before taking off, a 911 dispatcher is required to go through a check list of questions and instructions with any person calling 911 to report a medical emergency. This scripted method of questions and instructions is the heart of EMD.
On the surface, it may seem that the dispatcher is asking a great many tedious and unnecessary questions, but on average, the questions only take one minute to cover. According to Costin, the information gathered is necessary for the dispatcher to determine what type of ambulance to send, how to send it and what care giving and even life saving instructions to give the caller to properly help the patient until responders arrive.
The EMD system requires that and emergency room physician provides oversight, requires dispatcher training and, most importantly, requires a quality assurance method where calls are systematically reviewed and the performance of dispatchers evaluated.
EMD has been shown to reduce traffic accidents resulting from improper response of emergency vehicles, Costin said, and instructions given to callers by dispatchers, including CPR, have been shown to save lives.