Cumberland Times-News

October 24, 2013

Dispatch system in place for medical emergencies

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Allegany County 911 emergency medical communications went live with a new way of answering calls for medical help about two weeks ago.

The program is designed to make emergency responses more accurate and speedy, said Dick DeVore, the county director of emergency services.

“The new system helps us truly recognize the level of service and needs so we can prepare and respond to the emergency,” DeVore said.

Once an emergency call comes in, dispatchers are prompted to ask a series of questions to identify the proper response, for instance, whether advanced life support is needed. “At no time does this delay our getting an ambulance en route,” DeVore said. While the questions are being asked by one dispatcher, another will be alerting an ambulance company to respond and information will be sent to the ambulance crew.

“We want them to have the right resources for the problem ... so they’re not going in ‘blind’,” DeVore said.

Instructions to the ambulance crew and paramedics can continue to be relayed by dispatchers based on responses to the questions so that they can be as prepared as possible for the situation they are getting into, DeVore said. Depending on the answers to those questions, a series of follow-up questions are provided to dispatchers to ask the person calling for help.

It can also help determine the number of ambulances needed and other factors. 

The computerized system, which includes prompts to dispatchers for the questions, was developed by Priority Dispatch Corp., and is used throughout Maryland. The system, paid for by a state grant, cost $90,000, DeVore said.

County commissioners said the implementation was an example of their commitment to emergency services.

The system ties in with changes already made in emergency dispatching.

A recent study emphasized timely responses to patients from the nearest rescue company with the appropriate staffing level and enforcement of an automatic advanced life support alerting policy for all cases of reported respiratory/cardiac arrest; unconsciousness or unresponsiveness; severe allergic reaction; severe trauma involving rollover; ejections or fatalities; and other calls indicating a life-or-death situation.

That means that the first-due ALS company will always be alerted, and if after two minutes that company does not confirm it is responding, the call will be made to the next closest company.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at