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Many U.S. Regions Fail To Meet National 911 Response Standards
By Ed Silverstein, TMCnet Contributor
Technology used in responding to 911 calls has never been better, but several U.S. locations are seeing emergency responses remain below national standards.
One example is found in Denver. The city has repeatedly come in below standards – despite a commitment some four years ago to meet the life-saving standards.
The standards are for basic life support and advanced life support, and were spelled out by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), according to The Denver Post. The NFPA basic life support standard – used in cardiac arrests and extreme-trauma – recommends responders arrive within 6½ minutes of a 911 call 90 percent of the time. Denver meets the standard about 83 percent of the time. The NFPA advanced life support standard – used in specialized paramedic care – recommends responders arrive within 10½ minutes of a 911 call 90 percent of the time. Denver meets the standard about 77 percent of the time.
The city’s response rates improved by more than 20 percent over three years – but there is more room for improvement.
Across the United States there are different ways to determine effectiveness of a medical emergency system. One city looks at 19 metrics.
“The goal should be to create a sophisticated model that ensures the ability to respond with lightning quickness to someone who is suffering, say, a cardiac arrest,” according to a recent editorial from The Denver Post. “That may mean that someone with a non-life-threatening injury, such as a broken arm, might have to wait a bit longer to ensure there is coverage if a pressing emergency is called in.”
Denver wants advanced life support patients to get assigned an ambulance within 1½ minutes 95 percent of the time, The Denver Post said.
Meanwhile, in Martinsville, Virginia, heavy volume of calls to the Martinsville-Henry County E911 Communications Center may lead to adding more employees at the center. The dispatch center saw 84,045 calls during 2012, compared to a national average of 54,000.
County Administrator Tim Hall said the public had to be taught not to make nonemergency calls to the E911 communications center. Less than half of the calls received at the center — 84,045 out of 174,379 — were “true emergencies,” according to the Martinsville Bulletin newspaper.
Also, on average medium-sized dispatch centers have between 14 and 28 dispatchers. The Martinsville-Henry County center has 19 dispatchers.To help improve the situation, one state, Michigan, recently adopted new training standards for 911 operators statewide. They relate to basic and advanced training. Michigan is one of 31 states with minimum standards for 911 telecommunicators.
"In supporting the new standards, the membership of the State 911 Committee believed the lack of minimum training standards for 911 operators in Michigan was in contrast to the training standards of other public safety partners including police, fire service and EMS," Harriet Miller-Brown, 911 state administrator, said in a statement carried by TMCnet. "The public expects a higher level of service from all components of the public safety field, including 911 telecommunicators. As the gateway to all other public safety services, 911 telecommunicators are often 'the first first responder'."
Edited by Ashley Caputo