Dallas Fire-Rescue dispatchers are using a new software system that puts a priority on emergency calls.
In the past, if you had a medical emergency and dialed 911, the department would send an ambulance along with a fire engine truck no matter the level of emergency.
Under the new system, which is called “Medical Priority Dispatch,” before paramedics rush an ambulance to an emergency call, the dispatch operator will ask a series of questions. The software will use those answers to determine what resources are needed. The department will provide a tiered response based on priority.
Currently, within Dallas Fire-Rescue, more than 80 percent of calls are medical in nature. According to the department, less than 40 percent of those calls result in a visit to the hospital.
Paramedics carry the bulk of the work load, and the demand continues to increase.
“We’ve reached a point where we have to consider other measures,” said Jason Evans, Dallas Fire-Rescue spokesman. “We can’t just say, ‘hey lets put another ambulance here, lets put another ambulance there.’ It’s not always financially feasible all the time. So we’re hoping this will help lighten the work load of our medics and will provide a more efficient model to better serve the citizens."
According to the department, if a call is made for medical help and an ambulance is not needed, a fire engine will still arrive. An ambulance and a fire engine are outfitted with the same medical equipment. The caller would still receive proper medical treatment.
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“If fire fighters arrive and the medical need escalates, we can still call out an ambulance,” said Evans.
The Medical Priority Dispatch System costs $250,000. Funding for the system was part of the 2016 budget.