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Emergency Dispatchers Welcome New Protocols

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CLARKSBURG -

The Harrison/Taylor County 911 Center in Nutter Fort receives more than 140,000 911 calls ever year. Its records indicate that nearly 10 percent of those calls are hang up calls.

But the other 90 percent of calls are emergency related; many of them requiring medical attention.

As of July 1, 911 callers may notice changes in the way that dispatchers handle calls.

Dispatchers are now required to ask a series of questions depending on responses from the caller.

"The Emergency Medical Dispatch was a system of scripted questions for every incoming call that we get about medical assistance," said Paul Bump, Harrison County 911 Director.

Bump said some callers are getting frustrated.

"They get obviously frustrated, we are asking a lot of questions, very personal questions. But these are questions the medical community think need to be asked at the beginning of an incident like that," Bump said.

All dispatchers will be asking the same series of questions, based on the responses they get from callers. The Harrison County 911 Center is using a computer program to help keep it uniform, while other call centers are relying on flow charts.

"Here's what the screen looks like. Comes up with their address that we put in there, it's a medical problem. Age, are they able to talk," said Bryan Lowther, Captain of the Harrison County/Taylor County 911 Center.

Lowther said the questions become more and more specific as the call continues.

"Is the patient short of breath, can they speak in full sentences, have they vomited, are they dizzy?" Lowther said.

Meanwhile, some callers are just saying "send an ambulance." Lowther and Bump said that the ambulances are going out just as quickly, if not quicker than before.

They said that this new line of questions is just a way to get more information while help is on the way.

But another reason for the new questioning, is to provide immediate assistance.

"For abdominal pains it would be things like, don't give the patient anything to eat or drink, allow the patient to sit in the position of comfort," Lowther said.

Bump said dispatchers can provide assistance over the phone for even more serious symptoms and situations.

"Here's how you control bleeding. Here's how you deliver a baby, here's how you don't further injure the patient," Bump said.

Bump said it may take a few months before callers become familiar with the new standards, and believes the new protocols will improve emergency care. Bump said that emergency personnel will continue to find ways to improve assistance. Bump said at least 10 percent of the calls are monitored each month to ensure that dispatchers are handling calls properly and that callers are satisfied.