Okla. 911 dispatcher gives life-saving instructions for man electrocuted

The operator ordered the power be turned off and walked a caller through chest compressions and after his brother was electrocuted while repairing an air conditioner


By Diana Dickinson
Claremore Daily Progress

ROGERS COUNTY, Okla. — Not every call made to a 911 center is an emergency. But when a call is an emergency, 911 operators go into “life-saving” mode, as one Rogers County Enhanced 911 operator did recently.

Rachael Cotten, E911 certified training official, says every day is busy in terms of both emergency and non-emergency calls. But one day a couple of weeks ago, calls were not as abundant — and then came “the” call.

Cotten said the center received a call from a man who stated his brother was being electrocuted while attempting to repair an air conditioner. “The power had not been cut off and he was lying on the unit. I asked if anyone could turn the power off and once the caller did that, he was able to get the man off of the unit,” Cotten said.

At that point, Cotten immediately referred to her protocol cards. “I asked him to check his breathing and after that advised him to do a couple of chest compressions to get his heart going. He stabilized quickly and was alert by the time emergency responders arrived.”

The family members of the man were able to thank Cotten for saving their loved one’s life.

It is rare that a 911 operator will ever know the fate of a patient, but the operator always hopes for good outcomes.

“I have walked callers through delivering babies, and when you hear that baby cry for the first time, you know you did your job right. It is a very proud moment,” she said. “Or when you get a call that someone is not breathing and you instruct the caller to perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), then you hear they are breathing again. It lets you know you are in the right job.”

Anything involving CPR or choking is nerve-racking, Cotten said, because it is so labor-intensive. “While the caller is asking us questions and we are giving instructions, my partner is helping me to get first responders and ambulances. Callers get very frustrated but we are continually updating officials while giving instructions,” she said.

Being met with resistance is common — callers think while the 911 operator is giving instructions or staying on the phone with them, it is delaying the emergency response.

But Cotten said, “We stay on the phone with the caller until emergency responders arrive in case someone stops breathing.”

Anytime someone has had CPR or actively needs CPR, a firefighter will ride along because of the labor involved. She said, “They can switch off during compressions, making it easier on the responder.”

There are moments she has never forgotten, calls that stick with her. One caller found her baby cold to the touch and unresponsive. “I walked her through CPR but it did not have a positive outcome. The mother tried so hard to help bring her baby back.”

“It is unfortunate that there are those who do not make it, and you carry that around. You want what you are doing to help them and sometimes they are past that point,” she said.

Cotten wanted to stress to non-emergency callers that if they call, they run the risk of being placed on hold. “There are three of us in the center on duty covering the entire county. We get a lot of calls,” she said.

The biggest issue faced at the center is when a caller does not know their location. Paying attention to street signs and surroundings can be a lifesaver.

Most calls coming into the 911 center are medical calls, Cotten said. Behind medical calls are domestic abuse and juvenile behavioral issues. For non-emergency, most calls are about suspicious activity.

“I like the aspect of being in control of a call and being the person who got called on that bad day. I want to be able to help someone through a horrible situation. If the shoe was on the other foot, I would want someone like me to be on the other end of that call,” Cotten said.

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©2015 the Claremore Daily Progress (Claremore, Okla.)

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