Lansing’s 911 dispatchers now trained to advise during medical emergencies

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By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (September 14, 2022) – Lansing’s 911 dispatchers are now certified Emergency Medical Dispatchers, trained to better help callers respond to medical emergencies before paramedics arrive.

The change will mean local residents calling 911 for a medical situation will have a different experience than in years past.

Different 911 experience

“The public should know that the dispatchers are going to be asking them more questions when it comes to a medical emergency. I can understand why the public would say, ‘Why are you asking me so many questions? Just send help,'” said Brian Weis, Lansing Police Department’s Supervisor of Communications and Records.

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Dispatchers will still immediately send paramedics to medical emergencies like before, Weis said, but they may ask additional questions and provide advice in the time it take for the paramedics to arrive.

“If we have a caller saying they have difficulty breathing, we go ahead and dispatch the paramedics first. … Then the program has different pre-arrival instructions for different conditions broken down from general ill sick subject, diabetic emergency, difficulty breathing, all the way to CPR instructions and instructions for if somebody is choking, or if someone is giving birth,” Weis said.

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Lansing’s 911 dispatchers are now trained as Emergency Medical Dispatchers, allowing them to give advice and instructions during a medical situation. (Photo: Josh Bootsma, 2021)

Pre-paramedic instructions

Dispatchers now have a series of cards and scripts to follow for different medical calls, Weis said. He gave an example of someone not being able to breathe. The dispatcher would ask a series of questions confirming that the person cannot breathe and then move onto to giving instructions on how to help, such as loosening any tight clothing, staying calm, staying in a comfortable physical condition, unlocking doors for paramedics, etc.

Weis said LPD collaborated with Ingalls Hospital in South Holland and the Lansing Fire Department to ensure their dispatch instructions for various emergencies were in-line with best practices. The new procedures went into place on September 1.

Training and certification

Weis said the Emergency Medical Dispatcher certification required a six-week course, a CPR certification, and will require at least 12 hours of ongoing training every year. Dispatchers also need to re-certify every two years.

Once two oncoming dispatchers are fully trained, LPD will have 11 in total, besides Weis and an assistant manager, both of whom sometimes take dispatch calls.

“If they’re super busy or I hear calls are going on, I’ll go in there to try to help out. I jump in a console and put calls out,” Weis said.

“Better level of service”

Emergency Medical Dispatch certification is the standard for dispatchers in Illinois, but because Lansing at one time had so many police officers that were also paramedics, Lansing was not required to have dispatchers take the Emergency Medical Dispatch training. LPD policy says a police officer will go on every paramedic call as well as an ambulance.

“We have a very good response time, but we wanted to make sure we’re providing a better level of service,” Weis said. “I’m proud of all of our dispatchers. They did a really great job and I think once again this is great for us to provide another level of service to our citizens.”

The Lansing Police Department is located at 2710 170th Street. The Department’s non-emergency number is 708-895-7150. For emergencies, call 911.

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