EFFINGHAM, S.C. -- When you call 911 in Florence County, the voice at the other end of the telephone is even better suited to get you the best type of help you need.
The Florence County Central Dispatch Center is just one of two centers in the state using a Priority Dispatch to respond to just about any type of emergency and do it in the most efficient manner.
Florence County Emergency Management Director Dusty Owens said Priority Dispatch is a nationwide protocol system that enables you to dispatch fire, law enforcement and emergency medical services personnel using a standardized approach.
In the past, it was up to the individual dispatcher to make decisions, but the new system takes out the guesswork. It means that from the moment a call comes in, the dispatcher starts asking a very specific set of questions to determine what resources to deploy, whether it be police, fire or EMS.
At times the new system has been met with a little apprehension with callers because of the dispatchers' questions. Owens said, in the past, people would basically call in and ask for an ambulance.
"This system provides better service. And don't be afraid to answer the dispatchers' questions. The biggest fear and comment we get is that people feel that answering questions is delaying the response, but it's not true at all," Owens said. "The dispatchers work as a team so that while one is asking questions, one or more additional dispatchers are on the radio sending the needed resources."
The dispatchers now also are able to give doctor-approved medical instructions to callers before an ambulance arrives on scene. Some of the instructions they can give are for CPR, first aid and most other medical emergencies.
The new capability to give medical instructions also played a role in both McLeod Health and Carolinas Hospital System being able to meet the criteria to get accredited for their chest pain centers.
"(At) 911 dispatch is where it all starts, with getting a patient to the emergency department as quickly as possible," said Debbie Whisenhunt, McLeod Health director of cardiology outreach. "They do a tremendous job with trying to keep the patient calm and telling the patient everything to do. They are the first step in getting the right people there as quickly as possible."
Dr. William Cauthen, Carolinas Hospital System co-director of the chest pain center, medical director of the emergency department and medical control physician for Florence County, said the staff members at his hospital can expedite care based on the initial point of contact, which is central dispatch.
"Anytime we can get prepared with good information coming in ahead of arrival from EMS, we're able to activate our resources based on information from the field," Cauthen said.
Florence County Central Dispatch handles all emergency calls for the county's 12 fire departments, 10 law enforcement agencies and four transporting EMS and rescue squads.
Last month, the dispatch center was named the 911 Communications Center of the Year for 2011 by the S.C. Chapters of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officers (APCO) and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), out of 50 other 911 communication centers. It was also named center of the year in 2005.
In the 12 months preceding this year's award, the dispatch center handled 473,622 calls and averaged 490 calls per day.
Florence County Central Dispatch Mitchell "Mitch" Fulmore also was named the S.C. APCO-NENA Training officer of the year for 2010-2011, and Professional Standards Coordinator Marie Johnson received S.C. APCO-NENA Palmetto Award for 2010-2011.
Copyright 2011 - Florence Morning News, S.C.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service