Salt Lake City's Fire Department is exporting some information around the world that medical professionals credit with saving lives and time.
Fire Department surgeon Dr. Jeff Clawson is in Southern California this week, teaching the Los Angeles County Fire Department techniques to allow dispatchers to send the appropriate kind of medical help to emergency scenes.Salt Lake dispatchers take fire calls throughout the valley and notify the appropriate agencies, said Chief Dispatcher Jerry Evans.
"When the call comes in, there's a set number of questions to ask to determine the nature of the injuries . . . to determine whether it's serious enough for paramedics or can be handled by emergency medical technicians," Evans said.
The system puts more pressure on dispatchers to ask the right questions and get quick answers, he said, "so that you are trying to get the proper help to the scene - no more or no less than you need."
In the case of a person calling in saying someone is having a heart attack, Evans said dispatchers find out whether the victim is over the age of 35, turning blue and having difficulty breathing.
If those questions are answered affirmatively, the dispatchers send paramedics with their drugs and equipment. If the answer is no, the patient is not likely having a heart attack and less-intense medical crews can handle the situation.
"Depending on how they answer the questions depends on what we send - whether we go through red lights, screaming" or send the quieter EMTs on fire trucks, he said.
The technique that began in Salt Lake a decade ago is used by fire departments "throughout the world now," said Evans. "It's spreading quite rapidly."
The Salt Lake department recently was honored with the inaugural James O. Page Award - named for a former paramedic who now is a lawyer representing public emergency service workers - and honors agencies that lift the level of service to citizens.
"It's kind of important to us because (the system) was developed here and now it's spreading all over the country and the world," Evans said.
Before the technique was implemented, paramedics were sent automatically. The new system allows the more intensively trained technicians to be freed for graver situations.