Being prepared and ready to help in emergency situations is key to a successful E911 response effort—and local dispatchers have had opportunities to put new training to the test.
The Tennessee legislature passed a law last year requiring all staff at centers that answer 911 calls to receive three hours of online training in assisting CPR over the phone if necessary.
Additionally, Perry County E911 policy requires that dispatchers be CPR-certified by an in-person instructor.
“The bill passed in the summer of 2020 and was to be in place by January 01, 2021. We were able to get everyone certified, and have policies and protocols in place in a short amount of time with the help of Dr. Steve Averett and EMS Director Gary Rogers,” Perry County E911 Director Alycia Rosson told the Review.
In preparing for the new requirement, Rosson asked her seasoned dispatchers how many times they felt they could have used the procedure had they been previously trained; their response was “maybe” five or ten times over a period of several years, Rosson said.
“They also told me since day one to never say that will never happen here, because then it will,” Rosson said.
Since January of this year, Perry County dispatchers have utilized T-CPR skills five times, and have offered a CPR assist over the phone at least seven times.
In a couple of instances, the caller was physically unable to perform CPR or there was a bystander already administering the life-saving technique.
Twice since the beginning of 2021, the individual in distress was revived through dispatcher instruction over the phone and the hands-on work of family or friends present at the scene of the emergency.
“I think we were all a bit skeptical at first,” Rosson said, “but now that we have seen firsthand that we could possibly make the difference in life or death, we are grateful to be able to offer it. With the closing of the hospital, I would say it’s needed more now than ever.”
Another recent improvement may also prove beneficial to individuals trying to get in touch with Perry County E911 which was recently upgraded to ESInet, a statewide net specifically for 911 services.
“We are still working through this process since it is new. Like anything else, there are ends and outs, but ATT has been proactively working with us along with our other vendors,” Rosson said.
Once everything is in place and finalized with the ESInet, the next step will be to acquire Text-to-911 which will allow the public to send 911 a text in the event you are unable to call for any reason.
“A few counties in Tennessee have already obtained Text-to-911 and are actively using it,” Rosson said.
Presently, if you send a text to a 911 dispatch that does not have the service, you will get a response that says, “Please make a voice call to 911. There is no text service to 911 available at this time,” Rosson said.
“I am personally looking forward to this Text-to-911 service since I know in our rural county there are places you may get a text but not be able to make a call,” Rosson said.
“At the end of the day, we’re in the business to save lives and I want to do anything we can to make that happen.”