As you can see, there are about ten (10) steps in the 9-1-1 process. Each step means time consumed to get the proper information to dispatch help. With a medical alert systems 10 steps are reduced to 5. Also medical alert systems will insure that all of the information about the caller (location, special needs, special instructions, medication allergies) are on file and need not be asked at the time of the call. This alone can save minutes. The information is communicated to the responders so they know where to go and what to do in the shortest amount of time. Another important step is the medical alert responder also has contact information on file so family members, neighbors or other caregivers can be notified of the incident. There is no need for them to get that information from the caller.
A complex process unfolds when someone calls 9-1-1 for assistance. It takes mere minutes, but here’s what happens between the time you call for help and when the ambulance arrives.
We have color coded certain steps to indicate cause for concern.
Blue text means you should understand the potential for a problem.
Red text means this is a known problem which can contribute to significant delays in receiving help.
Where you see a ➩ symbol, this indicates that a step is NOT NECESSARY with a medical alert solution such as Multi-Alert.
- ➩ A person calls 9-1-1 to report an incident. A distinction is made on whether the caller is using a landline or cellphone. Sometimes a call comes in on your cable company’s phone service. Currently this can be a problem because there is information which YOU must provide your cable provider so that your location is know. This is a complicated interaction between the web based phone services commonly known as VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol).
- ➩ The call is answered by a 9-1-1 operator at the closest public safety answering point (PSAP), which is a locally based 9-1-1 centre that helps decide which services are needed to respond to the call. The PSAP will look up the emergency agencies which service your address. Another point of delay (:10).
- The information provided by the caller determines whether an ambulance is required. If so, the call is forwarded to the ambulance call center. This can take some time(1:00-3:00).
- ➩ When a landline call comes in, it’s answered by one of the center’s call-takers, who immediately sees the civic address from where the call has originated, and the name of the person to whom the phone is registered pop up on the computer screen. Point of delay is significantly less in this case; provided it is a traditional land line. Many are moving to cell and cable-based (VoIP) lines.
- ➩ When a cellphone call comes in, the call-taker has to manually input the caller’s information. This can be a significant time delay. (1:00)
- ➩ The call-taker begins asking the caller a set of standard questions to determine the severity of the problem and how urgent the response should be. Depending on the information, the emergency call falls into different categories that will help the dispatchers and paramedics decide whether to send the ambulance with sirens and lights flashing. Serious problems like a patient not breathing, a patient in a serious car accident, etc. fall into the most urgent categories, and a slight fall, or someone who feels poorly, etc, will fall into the slightly less urgent category. Much of this information is already contained in our customer records. This is a point of much delay. Having quick access to vital information reduces the need to question the patient which reduces the overall stress of the situation. Of course, precious minutes are saves by having this information handy.
- As the questions are being answered, the call-taker is transferring the information to a dispatcher sitting metres away. The call-taker continues assisting the caller, while the dispatcher quickly identifies the most appropriate ambulance to respond. A dedicated response center has all of the pertinent local emergency numbers for your address up on the screen for an automatic dispatch. (:30)
- The dispatcher notifies the appropriate paramedic crew of the call by radio and the information is simultaneously sent to their pagers. The ambulance begins the trip to the scene, with sirens and lights flashing if necessary.
- Paramedics inform dispatchers of the routes they intend to use, or ask for suggestions from the command center that will get them there as quickly as possible. The dispatchers, and sometimes paramedics from other ambulances, will offer advice and guidance about the quickest routes available.
- As the ambulance arrives on scene, the dispatchers are informed and the patient receives the treatment he or she needs.
In the above process, there is around 2:00 minutes of built-in delays plus various points where delays can occurred. When you are suffering or have an immediate medical need, two minutes might mean the difference between a simple doctor visit or a prolonged stay in a hospital at great cost.
It is essential to understand this process. If you can avoid the delays introduced by a 9-1-1 call, you will improve the chances of a quick response which means a better outcome. Make sure the medical alert solution you have is connected to a response center and is just not a fancy way to dial 9-1-1.