County 911 call center switches to ‘first available’ for ambulance calls

County 911 call center switches to ‘first available’ for ambulance calls

Closest- to- the- scene replaces rotation system for emergency responders

Emergency dispatchers in Crittenden County will no longer have to wait to send the next ambulance in the rotation to respond to a call.

On July 1 the county swapped over to a new system which allows them to now send the closest available ambulance to the scene.

“When I took over we were dispatching based on rotation,” said Crittenden County E-911 Dispatch Center Director Ronnie Sturch. “Well that doesn’t always get you the closest unit. So we implemented a system where the ambulances have GPS trackers on their units and we can map them on our system and actually dispatch the closest unit to the scene of any emergency.”

Sturch said dispatchers now type in the address and the system immediately shows them where the closest ambulance is.

Ambulances that are available show up as green on the map. Those that are on a call show up as red.

“We can watch the units on the map through the entire county,” Sturch said.

“With one click of the mouse the computer automatically tells us who is the closest.”

The upgrade did not cost the county any money to upgrade its system to the new GPS tracker. However, it costs about $16,000 per unit to equip an ambulance with the GPS and another $3,000 for the software service.

Crittenden County has three ambulance services, but Sturch said only two — CEMS and Riverside — have implemented the GPS system necessary for dispatchers to track their whereabouts. Lifeline has not equipped it’s ambulances with a GPS, but still receives calls for service from the county.

“That’s up to them,” Sturch said. “Lifeline is still a very important part of the system. We dispatch them once everybody is tied up.”

Sturch said he has been very pleased with the results. They have seen a reduction in the response time in both the “call received to dispatch time” and “in route to arrival time.”

“We knew we would see a reduction in our in route to arrival time because we are dispatching the closest unit,” Sturch said. “But what we didn’t realize — and a good side effect— is that the time we receive the call until we dispatch we’re also seeing a reduction there. Under the rotation system, we may call but they may say they don’t have any ambulances available. So we would have to hang up and go to another.

By the time we passed through the system we would see two minutes wasted.”

In fact, Sturch said he was standing behind the dispatcher and the very first call they took — for a possible heart attack — the dispatcher hit the “go” button and the system located the closest unit. The unit was less than three blocks away.

“We went from the time we received the call to the time the paramedics were at the scene was less than three minutes,” Sturch said.

“Out of curiosity, I asked who was next in the rotation and the next one was out of West Memphis that would have been responding to the call. So we would have been looking at a 10 to 12 minute response time.

So it worked the very first call.”

Paramedic Cordell Laden of Riverside Ambulance said he likes the new system because there have been times when his service was closer to a scene but the call went to the next ambulance in the rotation.

“We’ve seen wrecks before where they are right down the road from us,” Laden said.

Paramedic Daniel Vaughn agreed.

“It’s a good system,” Vaughn added. “Ultimately it’s about the patents getting

the quickest unit


Hudson Hallum of CEMS said the new system definitely cuts down on the response time, which is good because second and minutes count in an emergency situation.

“No question about it,” Hallum said.

By Mark Randall