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EMS News in Focus
by Arthur Hsieh

Working with the public to save lives

By Arthur Hsieh

New compressions-only CPR guidelines released by the American Heart Association have prompted 911 staff in Columbus, Ohio to be a little pushy. These days, instead of asking callers whether they want to do CPR, Columbus firefighters are telling callers they're going to do it.

Good job to the Columbus, Ohio EMS system for compelling its community to help out when time really matters.

If you're not familiar with Columbus, the "Heartmobile" concept was an early incarnation of the modern EMS system. The emphasis on getting the public to act in a sudden cardiac arrest cannot be overstated. In the 2010 AHA guidelines the primary way that victims survive neurologically intact is if they receive immediate chest compressions and an AED.

In this day of shrinking budgets and cutbacks, the ability for professional prehospital providers to arrive at the victim's side in an optimal time is virtually zero. Add to the fact that, at this point, no advanced life support procedure has been shown to affect outcomes, compared to good basic life support.

There is an increased emphasis on the importance of dispatch-assisted CPR. Despite the efforts of multiple agencies over the years, few members of the public are trained to perform CPR when indicated.

I suspect that fewer feel prepared to perform the task, even if trained. It's important to have a calm voice on the other end of the phone who can encourage, reassure and guide the unsuspecting rescuer in suddenly performing perhaps the most important task of his or her life — saving the life of another.

Truth be told, there will be folks out there who will refuse to perform CPR. Some might even accuse the system of shirking its responsibilities. Well, unless those same folks are willing to staff a response unit every few blocks in their community, very little will change in terms of survival. That's a simple fact.

Consider your system. How can the activities that Columbus does, work in your system? Here's yet another inexpensive way to deliver superior care in your community. Optimize how the communications system functions.

Minimize the number of call transfers, and improve the out-of-chute time. And value those folks in dispatch — not only are they your lifeline, they may also be the lifeline to that would-be rescuer that makes the difference.


About the author

EMS1 Editorial Advisor Art Hsieh, MA, NREMT-P currently teaches at the Public Safety Training Center, Santa Rosa Junior College in the Emergency Care Program. 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 textbook author, has presented at conferences nationwide, and continues to provide patient care at an EMS service in Northern California. Contact Art at
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