Emergency Dispatchers Trained To Coach CPR Save More Lives

Written by KOVA Corp

Emergency dispatchers can make the difference between life and death. Providing the vital link between a crisis and the corresponding emergency response, dispatchers have helped make our communities safer places.

But for all the good work they do, there can sometimes be a missing component in the first response they provide the public.

There is a growing movement to provide all emergency dispatchers with CPR training. The ability to coach callers in the midst of crisis on steps they can take to keep a victim’s heart beating in some circumstances is the single greatest contributing factor to their survival: for every minute of delay the chances of survival drop by ten percent.

In a country were we’re accustomed to thinking we have the best of everything, it can come as a surprise to know that where you live can directly affect your chances of surviving a sudden heart attack. And the differences are not minor: survival rates can be as much as five times higher in some cities.

A significant contributing factor is the CPR training of 9-1-1 operators.

But putting the capability in the hands of emergency dispatchers is harder than it may at first seem. Dispatchers face an incredible impediment in applying their CPR training to an emergency call. Because they must rely on the caller’s assessment of a victim’s status, the dispatcher essentially works through secondhand information. The stress the caller is under can affect their ability to understand fully what is happening or may limit their ability to communicate with a dispatcher.

Besides coping with panic, dispatchers face the difficulty of using the appropriate vocabulary to express directions. Words like ‘center,’ ‘middle,’ and ‘half way down,’ while referring to the same general concept, can mean different things to different people.

Another major hurdle is identifying if a victim is breathing. What may seem like breath to the caller may in fact be a last gasp. In other cases a victim could be breathing, but not normally.

Despite the obvious challenges of coaching CPR over the phone, the possible impact it can make makes the attempt worthwhile. Fully appreciating this fact, the American Heart Association has urged every city and county on a voluntary basis to train 9-1-1 dispatchers to coach CPR over the phone. It recommends that

  • “Dispatchers should help 9-1-1 callers identify cardiac arrest victims and coach callers to provide immediate CPR.
  • “If more dispatchers followed these processes, thousands of lives could be saved every year.
  • “Communities should regularly evaluate 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers’ performance and the overall emergency response system.”

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. It accounts for one in every four deaths. Every year 720,000 Americans die of heart attacks, and of those fatalities, 515,000 are victims of first time heart attacks. With statistics like these, the need for CPR training is clear.

Emergency dispatchers are often the crucial element that can save a life. By providing them the tools that can turn around a potentially fatal situation, city and county leaders can help ensure fewer American will die from heart disease.


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