What to Expect When You Call 9-1-1 with a Medical Emergency
If you call 9-1-1 in Dakota County, you will reach the Dakota Communications Center (DCC). The DCC handles police/fire/medical dispatching for the entire county. DCC Dispatchers are certified in the use of the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch (IAED) protocol for Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD). EMD is a doctor-created and approved protocol which asks the right questions, phrased in the right way, to help determine the seriousness of the reported medical condition. The DCC works with a medical doctor to oversee these protocols. The DCC is able to obtain consistent information on all medical calls to relay to first responders, and to effectively determine the number and type of resources to send to assist the patient. The DCC is provided with specific language (pre-arrival instructions) to use to help the caller provide care to the patient while waiting for first responders to arrive at the location.
All EMD starts with the dispatcher asking two questions, which must then be verified back to the caller:
What is the location of the emergency? Verification ensures that resources are sent to the correct location.
- What is the phone number you are calling from? Verification ensures that if disconnected, the dispatcher is able to call back and continue to obtain necessary information from the caller.
EMD then asks the caller to provide the following supporting information:
- Tell me exactly what happened.
- How old is s/he (the patient)?
- Is s/he awake (conscious)?
- Is s/he breathing?
If the answer to question 4 is yes, Then the dispatcher moves to another set of questions based on what problem has been described. For example, if the complaint is abdominal pain, the dispatcher would ask for the following information:
- Is s/he completely alert? (responding appropriately)
- Describe the pain. (Asked only if the patient is 50 or over)
- Did s/he faint or nearly faint? (Asked if a female patient is 12 or over, or a male patient is 50 or over)
- Is her/his pain above the belly button? (Asked if a female patient is 45 or older, or a male patient is 35 or over.)
If the answer to question 4 is no, Then the dispatcher immediately starts a high level response to the location and assists the caller with pre-arrival instructions to help the patient until first responders arrive.
The number and type of additional questions asked the caller varies based on the problem being reported.
These questions allow the dispatcher to code the call to get the appropriate response – in some cases only an ambulance, and in others, police and/or fire/rescue may also be dispatched. The dispatcher who speaks with the caller types the information into the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. Other dispatchers will handle the duties of notifying the appropriate responders. The dispatcher speaking to the caller can update the radio dispatcher as the situation changes, merely by typing the information into the CAD call.
Once first responders have been alerted, the caller will be provided with either pre-arrival instructions or post-dispatch instructions.
Pre-arrival instructions would be used in the case of a patient who
- Is not breathing,
- Is choking, or
- is in childbirth
The dispatcher will tell the caller exactly what to do to help the patient until help arrives.
If none of the conditions for pre-arrival instructions are present, the dispatcher will move to what we call “post-dispatch” instructions. Post-dispatch instructions may include the following:
- Don’t let her/him have anything to eat or drink. It might make them sick or cause problems for the doctor.
- Let her/him rest in the most comfortable position and wait for help to arrive.
- Put away family pets.
- Gather her/his medications and write down the name of her/his doctor.
- Unlock the door.
- Turn on the outside lights.
- Have someone meet the paramedics.
Post-dispatch instructions may also include other information, based on the nature of the medical complaint. Once post-dispatch instructions have been provided, the dispatcher will allow you to disconnect. If the caller is not comfortable disconnecting, the dispatcher will stay on the phone with the caller as long as they are able, or until help arrives.
If you call 9-1-1 for medical help, answering the dispatcher’s questions to the best of your ability in a timely manner manner, will aid in getting the correct responders to you as quickly as possible.