(Photo by Flickr user @Knight725 via Creative Commons)
The city responded last year to roughly 235,000 calls about medical emergencies. Every 911 call got the same response from city paramedics, regardless of the complaint, whether it was a stroke, a trip and fall or a “I can’t reach the remote,” a type of call that is more common than you might think, paramedics have said.
This spring, that will change.
The city launched a contract in late October that will allow the Fire Department‘s dispatchers to prioritize calls and determine the appropriate response for each call, said Michael Resnick, the city’s director of public safety.
“Every call that comes in now gets a response with lights and sirens,” Resnick said, but not every call requires that. Not every call requires the most highly-trained employees or the most sophisticated equipment, either, he said.
The new technology, from Salt Lake City, Utah-based Priority Dispatch, will prompt dispatchers to ask a series of questions. They’ll then enter the answers into a computer system that will determine the appropriate response.
The new system will help the city more efficiently use its resources and respond to citizens more quickly and more effectively, Resnick said. It’ll also hopefully bring relief to the city’s paramedics, who are “likely among the most overworked in the country,” a spokesman for the national firefighters’ union told the Daily News.
Implementation will cost the city between $400,000 to $500,000, as well as other training and long-term costs, said Eryn Santamoor, a former Fire Department official who led the project before she left the city this month.
Used in major cities across the United States, as well as London, Sao Paolo and Dubai, Priority Dispatch‘s technology is a 30-year-old, tried and true system, Santamoor said in an interview before she left the city. It’s one the city tried and failed to implement in the late 90s because it couldn’t get buy-in from everyone necessary, Santamoor said. (It’s also a suggestion City Controller Alan Butkovitz made in his 2009 report on how the Fire Department should implement telenursing to handle 911 calls that don’t require an ambulance.)
Now is always going to be better than later because the city expects the number of 911 medical calls to increase by two to three percent every year, Santamoor said, adding that hopefully, the city will be able to use data from the new system to design better ways to respond to 911 calls.
The Police Department uses a dispatch system that Penn and Temple police have had access to since 2000. That way, university police can respond to 911 calls that city police have yet to get to.-30-
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