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Home > Topics > 911
July 10, 2014
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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Better mobile phone tech could solve rural EMS dispatch issues

It’s understandable, but unfortunate, that the parent felt like he had to take things into his own hands and drive his child to the hospital.

By Arthur Hsieh

This article about a father rushing his child to an emergency department because he believed an ambulance would not be able to find their location in the countryside serves as a stark reminder about the unique challenges that affect rural emergency response.

Roads go on for miles with only a couple of vague addresses to pinpoint locations. There are often few structures or landmarks to help dispatchers identify caller locations.

Pinpointing a cell phone's exact location continues to be a laborious, time-consuming task. Incidents like these are the reason why being able to identify the GPS coordinates of the handset during a 911 activation should be a crucial element in mobile phone design.

Without hearing the 911 recording, it's impossible to pass judgment on what the dispatcher said to reassure the caller, or whether any pre-arrival instructions were provided. Any parent will tell you how crazy your mind can get when a child is suddenly seriously injured or sick.

It takes a lot of effort by the dispatcher to maintain control of the call and provide initial care over the line. Getting essential information to help crews respond to the correct scene is paramount in saving time, and not easy if the caller is unable to provide that information. 

It's understandable, but unfortunate, that the parent felt like he had to take things into his own hands and drive his child to the hospital. It's likely that he risked both of their lives while racing to the hospital, not to mention other members of the driving public.

Meanwhile, multiple emergency units were also driving quickly to the scene. It's a very frustrating situation.

It'll be interesting to review the audio recording to see what might have transpired during the call. Until then, we'll have to wait and see whether there were any issues to correct.

About the author

EMS1 Editor in Chief Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. In the profession since 1982, Art has worked as a line medic and chief officer in the private, third service and fire-based EMS. He has directed both primary and EMS continuing education programs. Art is a published textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at a rural hospital-based ALS system. Contact Art at Art.Hsieh@ems1.com.
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