9-1-1 Emergency dispatch system is upgraded
Sep. 14, 2019 PLYMOUTH EAGLE.
Plymouth Michigan News
By Don Howard
‘The dispatch protocol varies for City of Plymouth callers. The city relies on the police department as first on-scene responders…’
The true first responders in emergencies aren’t the police or fire personnel who appear at the scene of a crisis. They are the 911 dispatcher or Public Service Aids, who answer the initial calls for emergency service in the crisis situations that can take place any time of the day or night.
The constant management of those emergency calls can take a toll on 911 dispatchers.
Last year, Public Service Aids in Plymouth Township fielded 13,791 911 calls and responded to 34,998 requests for service from both the City of Plymouth and Plymouth Township residents in need of emergency help.
The unique dispatch system in the township includes nine full-time professionals on the front lines of stress 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. The dispatchers answer the initial calls for police, fire, and all emergencies and provide dispatch and communication support services. They make split-second decisions regarding people who are very often in trauma, suffering emotional situations, reporting a fire, a weather emergency or even a water main break. Part of the dispatcher’s job is to remain professional, calm and collected no matter how dire the situation might be.
Thanks to help from a $200,000 state public safety, grant fostered by State Rep. Jeff Noble last year, Plymouth Township was able to make the dispatch center a more efficient and comfortable section within the glass walls of the Plymouth Township Police Department control room where the dispatchers often spend most of their waking-hours, working long shifts.
Police Communications Director Cynthia Fell, a five-year department veteran, said she is more than pleased with the recently completed remake of the communication center that cost an estimated $400,000. She said the upgraded dimmable LED lighting, temperature control, modern elevated workstations, new carpet, chairs, large screen monitors and state of the art software make her team more efficient and enhances response time and better protects callers.
The new computer software called “Rapid-Lite” uses a computer aided dispatch terminal (CAD) together with a touch screen telephone interface and instantly locates any caller’s phone location via GPS and places an icon marking the spot on a large monitor screen. The innovative manufacturer of the new Rapid SOS software offered it to the township free of charge.
“9-1-1 – What’s your emergency?” the answering dispatcher responds to every caller on his or her headset microphone. The dispatchers can even respond to text messages, if necessary with the new system and within seconds the call is categorized into the system and the dispatch process commences.
Fell says that on the average, a dispatcher is only on the phone for 30 seconds during a medical emergency before the caller is then transferred to the back-up service, Huron Valley Ambulance Co. (HVA), where the critical information is again taken from the caller. The HVA dispatcher then locates an available ambulance and often provides emergency triage and medical advice for critically ill patients by phone, using trained and certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers, EMDs. With set protocols the EMDs can provide CPR instruction and other pre-hospital advice, when appropriate.
Five of Fell’s nine Public Service Aides are already trained and certified in EMD. Because the department is not entirely EMD certified, the dispatchers sometimes rely on HVA to provide medical advice to callers. Fell said the majority of her staff says they would like to be able to offer EMD services. “Maybe someday,” she added.
The dispatch protocol varies for City of Plymouth callers. The city relies on the police department as first on-scene responders, then the on-call Northville-City Fire Department, then HVA, mainly because the fire department is not certified with paramedics or Advanced Life Support (ALS), unlike the Township Fire Department, where fire department personnel are the first on-scene responders.