EMS Communications FAQ

1. Why should my dispatch center provide emergency medical dispatch?

Emergency medical dispatch (EMD) protocols help provide even better pre-hospital care to the 9-1-1 caller. It aids the communications officer in determining the nature and severity of the medical emergency. The emergency medical dispatcher can provide basic instructions on how best to care for the person in need until EMS resources arrive. Also, EMD protocols are an excellent way to manage EMS resources, determining the correct level of response and what available resource to send. An example would be sending a BLS Rescue ambulance to a local soccer field for a call for a twisted ankle and keeping an ALS Medic in service for a more life threatening call. The continued communications between the emergency medical dispatcher and the caller keeps the EMS unit dispatched advised of the patients conditions and any changes which may have taken place. With the continued expansion of EMD protocols, it has become “the standard of care” with public expectation of this service being available. This aids in minimizing liability exposure to the jurisdiction employing EMD protocols.

2. How expensive is it to set up and run Emergency Medical Dispatch program?

The cost can vary, depending on which system is used and how it is employed, from a basic “flip card”set which sits by the dispatch console to a system which interfaces with the CAD system being used. There are various commerical protocols and systems available from APCO, PowerPhone and Medical Priority Dispatch. The dispatch center should work with the EMS agencies they dispatch and the local Operational Medical Director to determine which meets the needs of that jurisdiction best. The Office of EMS can assist with purchase, implementation and training through grant funds from the Rescue Squad Assistance Fund program.