If you don't have time to watch the whole video, the investigation seems to have stemmed in part from an incident that occurred in October of 2007 when a young boy in Texas lost his life. Apparently what happened was that when his mother wasn't looking, the 21-month toddler went into his family's backyard, got his head tangled in their soccer net, and strangled himself. Upon finding her son, who had turned blue, the mother called 911 and was - naturally - hysterical. During the course of the 4-minute call the emergency dispatcher who took the call did not give the mother any medical advice and told her to calm down 11 times. Three days after the incident, the boy died at the hospital and the family is now suing the City of Murphy, Texas citing "... [lack of] adequate hiring standards, training, [and] supervision ... of its 911 operators."
The City Manager of Murphy said that the dispatcher was doing the job that he was trained to do trying to calm the caller down while also dispatching the ambulance, the fire department, and the police officers. When asked why the dispatcher was not trained in CPR, the City Manager stated that he was not required to be nor were any of the other 911 operators in Murphy, Texas. The City denies any wrongdoing in the case and says that CPR would not have saved the child but they have since changed their policy and now train all of their 911 operators in CPR.
Those of us who are 911 operators and dispatchers (telecommunicators) here in the State of Connecticut undergo rather rigorous training in accordance with the Connecticut General Statutes and must maintain that certification once we achieve it. In addition, the Connecticut State Legislature passed a law in 2005 which requires all medical calls coming into a Statewide PSAP (a Primary Safety Answering Point) or 911 Communications Center be handled under what's called an Emergency Medical Dispatch protocol. Those of us who provide Emergency Medical Dispatch are required to achieve and maintain certification in the protocols along with our Telecommunicator Certification.
The EMD protocol involves a series of questions so that dispatchers can determine:
- What the medical situation is
- If intervention is needed immediately
- What resources need to be dispatched (EMS, Fire, Police)
- How those resources should respond (lights and sirens or with the flow of traffic)
- And if pre-arrival instructions need to be given to the caller (CPR, bleeding control, child birth, etc)
Had the tragic situation spoken about in the video above occurred in Connecticut rather than Texas, a trained and certified 911 operator would have done his/her best to calm the boy's mother down and then given CPR instructions in order to attempt to resuscitate the child prior to the First Responders arrival on-scene. Instructions are read from a specific script and not just rattled off the top of someone's head so you know that you are getting the proper help for whatever the situation may be. Pre-arrival instructions don't always work - sometimes the patient is too far gone - but I know that at the very least the act of doing something is giving the caller(s) the assurance in knowing that they did everything they could to help the patient.
Hopefully someday the rest of the country will follow suit when it comes to how 911 calls are handled and people will no longer hear 911 horror stories like this but will instead hear stories of how people were able to save the lives of their loved ones following the instructions given to them by a well-trained 911 operator who was able to do more than repeatedly tell the caller to calm down. Granted, calming down is half the battle with any emergency but a lot of times it's easier said than done. Knowing that you've got a trained professional on the other side of that three-digit line has got to help calm a person down some - or at least that would be my hope!
At the end of the segment Matt Lauer made a very strong and valid point ... "if any story should ever prompt people to go out and learn CPR, learn about poisoning prevention and things like that, it's this one - it really is." He is absolutely right. CPR and First Aid instruction is offered in so many places in so many communities that you really might be doing your family a disservice by not learning it yourself. Though you might think you'll never need it, you just never really know and just like insurance, it's better to have it there than not.
As for those 911 operators out there who have not had to undergo training and certifications, I most certainly hope that changes soon as I have no doubt that they can feel pretty darned helpless when someone calls who really needs help and they haven't been trained on how to give it. There is so much more to our jobs than answering the phone and asking "911, what's the address of your emergency?" and I, for one, wouldn't want to walk the tightrope of being a 911 dispatcher without having that safety net of training and certification under me. I am sure that operator in Texas in the story above felt absolutely horrible but I also know that he couldn't give that poor mother what he didn't have - the knowledge and resources to provide possible life-saving instruction.
Perhaps this was a tragedy that those 18 states can learn from. I sure hope so.