A new computer system being phased into the county’s Perris-based dispatch hub is giving trained 911 dispatchers medically supported tools that cut response times to zero, according to Cal Fire spokeswoman Jody Hagemann.
"It’s giving residents a higher level of service,” added Cal Fire Battalion Chief Phil Rawlings.
Dispatchers are currently training on the new computer system known as the Medical Priority Dispatch System. Now when a 911 call comes in, pre-paramedic-arrival instructions begin over the phone, as soon as the medical emergency is identified. The dispatcher types the nature of the medical emergency into the MPDS, which in turn spells out medical instructions for the dispatcher to relay to the victim and/or caller while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
“The dispatchers buy us time,” Rawlings explained.
Paramedics in route to the emergency are patched into the system via computer hardware installed in all field equipment, so they know what’s transpiring during 911 calls. The connectivity between first responders and dispatchers allows for more seamless care, Rawlings said.
Hagemann, who has worked as a 911 dispatcher, said the system helps take pressure off those taking emergency calls.
“Even though dispatchers are trained, there is liability,” Hagemann said. Without a system like MPDS, pre-paramedic-arrival instructions can vary slightly. Using the MPDS, the dispatcher relays “medically approved” information, Hagemann explained.
He said it will help save lives and allow first responders to better prioritize resource allocation so life-or-death situations get attention first.
In a two-page brief drafted last year by Buster, he noted that about 80 percent of the county's 911 calls are medical-related, but "many of those calls stem from non-emergency and non-life-threatening incidents.''
The supervisor argued that the protocol for answering a request for medical aid is to deploy a fire engine with two firefighters and a paramedic -- responding with lights and siren -- along with an ambulance staffed by two emergency medical technicians, rolling code three.
"Responding with a full array of assets with red lights and siren to every medical aid call -- many of which first-responders call 'band-aid calls' -- takes emergency response units out of service unnecessarily and contributes to increased response times in [true] life-threatening emergencies when units farther away must be dispatched,'' Buster wrote.
"An integrated CAD system utilizing Medical Priority Dispatch System protocols would allow emergency medical service providers to immediately identify the nature of the emergency and share automated data concerning the location of the caller, thus decreasing ambulance dispatch and response times,'' the supervisor argued.
Rawlings said resource allocation and protocols have not changed – yet.
“This is an evolution,” he said, noting that the MPDS is being rolled out in phases.
The system cost the county approximately $185,000 up front and just over $29,000 annually.
American Medical Response (AMR), the ambulance service provider under contract with the county, is also upgrading to connect with the system.
According to Buster, the AMR is spending approximately $90,000 on the upgrade.