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Dispatcher's CPR instructions revive victim

Staff writer

More than simply sending a cop, a fireman, or an ambulance where they’re needed, emergency dispatchers often must talk callers through the steps they need to take until help arrives.

A Monday evening call from Tampa about a woman who quit breathing had dispatchers giving family members instructions how to do CPR until the ambulance arrived.

Linda Klenda, 911 administrator for Marion County Sheriff’s office, said such situations happen more often than people would think. It also seems to happen more often now than in the past, she said.

It’s definitely a tense call for both the family and the dispatcher, Klenda said.

Every dispatcher uses a computer software program called “Priority Dispatch.”

“What happens is, if we determine it’s a medical call, it will bring up a screen and ask specific questions,” Klenda said. “If they’re having chest pains it might guide you to aspirin or other measures appropriate to the situation.”

The program could guide a caller through delivery of a baby.

“It will steer them to give CPR instructions if the patient is not breathing or has no apparent heartbeat,” she said.

Typically it is family members who call 911 when someone isn’t breathing. Sometimes dispatchers have to talk a family member into doing CPR.

“We try everything in our power to get them to do it,” Klenda said. “If someone’s not breathing, they’re either going to die from not breathing, or someone needs to do CPR.”

Sometimes families are afraid to pull their loved one to the floor in order to do CPR, but there really is no choice, she said.

“Someone has to get them on the floor, and don’t worry about hurting them,” Klenda said.

Dispatchers understand how distraught family members are at such a time.

“What helps is when I have a really great dispatcher to help calm them down and tell them what to do,” she said.

Even though the dispatcher is tense as well, they have a job to do.

“You do what you need to do — you do your job,” she said. “Afterward, if you need to, you take a minute and you compose yourself and you’re right back at it.”

Klenda said if someone has an emergency where they are unable to speak aloud to dispatchers, they can text 911.

“If someone breaks in and you are hiding and don’t want to call so they don’t hear you, you can text,” she said.

Texters should say what kind of help they need and where they are.

If they do not know where they are, dispatch can send a link for them to click on their GPS-enabled phone. The link will tell dispatchers the caller’s location.

Last modified Aug. 4, 2021

 

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