Tuesday, January 12, 2010


When medical emergencies strike, can you count on getting the help you need?

A recent NBC Today Show segment “911 Emergency: Are Operators Ready for Your Call?” focused on a Texas 9-1-1 center that cast doubt on the Emergency Medical Dispatch training public safety dispatchers receive across the U.S.

9-1-1 callers in Clark County, Washington can rest assured. Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency (CRESA) 9-1-1 Dispatchers undergo rigorous training to give callers the emergency help they need. CRESA Dispatchers are trained to ask the right questions, send the appropriate medical responders and provide callers with pre-arrival instructions.

Before being hired, CRESA 9-1-1 Dispatcher applicants go through skills testing, multiple interviews, 4+ hours of “job previews” (to see and hear what the job is really like), an extensive background investigation and a psychological evaluation. Once hired, each new Dispatcher begins the 12 to 16 month training program.

New CRESA Dispatchers must pass an 8 week Academy with over 300 hours classroom training, on-the-floor observation, practical exercises, simulations, quizzes and exams. Dispatchers receive one week (40 hours) of emergency medical dispatch training to become certified in providing Emergency Medical Dispatch instructions to callers. CRESA Dispatchers give callers these “pre-arrival” medical instructions specific to their emergency while medical responders are en route. For example, Dispatchers may instruct a caller step-by-step to perform CPR, help a choking victim, or deliver a baby.

CRESA uses the National Academies of Emergency Dispatching (NAED) internationally utilized medical triage and pre-arrival system. CRESA became an NAED Accredited Center of Excellence (ACE) in 1994 by meeting and maintaining the National Academy’s twenty accreditation standards, and goes through recertification every three years.

CRESA Dispatchers continue to train on-the-job with certified Communications Training Officers (CTO). CTOs give Dispatchers-in-training daily feedback on their strengths and weaknesses. On-the-job training averages 9 months, and that doesn’t include practical experience assignments. Every step of the way, CRESA Dispatchers must pass simulation testing, reach training benchmarks and maintain performance to progress to the next stage.

Every CRESA Dispatcher is cross-trained in all 9-1-1 tasks: Call-taking, Emergency Medical Dispatching, Police Dispatching and Fire Dispatching. CRESA’s Dispatch Supervisors and Quality Assurance staff review 9-1-1 calls monthly for quality assurance and compliance with EMD and public safety dispatching protocols.

Training is ongoing. CRESA Dispatchers go through 60+ hours of continuing education training per year, including at least 12 hours of EMD training or updates. Each must maintain First Aid, CPR and AED certification. CRESA is also among just a few communications centers who are accredited both by NAED and by the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). CRESA first became CALEA accredited in 2002.

Lastly, here are some important preparations every individual can do BEFORE an emergency strikes:

Get prepared, and know that CRESA 9-1-1 Dispatchers are constantly preparing for your call too. It's a better option than just "crossing your fingers and hoping for the best" in case you ever have to call 9-1-1.

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