Each Emergency Dispatch/Communication Service has its own unique processes for gathering information and relaying that information to the front line staff however when you call 911 to request an Ambulance within the Niagara Region you are communicating with staff who are qualified to the highest levels and who work in an Accredited Dispatch Centre.
Read on for a brief overview of what happens when you call 911 in the Niagara Region.
The 9-1-1 Operator
In Niagara, when you dial 9-1-1, your call answered by specially trained staff at the Niagara Regional Police 9-1-1 Communications Centre. This centre is known as a Public Safety Answering Point. (PSAP)
These 9-1-1 communications staff will answer your call for help and say,
“Niagara Emergency, Do you require Police, Fire or Ambulance?" Depending on your answer, the 9-1-1 communicator will forward your call to the appropriate emergency services' dispatch centre:
When you ask for an Ambulance you are transferred to the Niagara Ambulance Communication Service.
Niagara Ambulance Communications Centre (NACS)
The Niagara Ambulance Communications Service is responsible for receiving and dispatching calls that deal with medical or traumatic related incidents in the Niagara Region. NACS is staffed by 'System Status Controllers' (SSC's) who are all qualified as Advanced Emergency Medical Dispatchers (AEMD's). In Niagara SSC's perform both the call taking and dispatching functions.
In order to be designated an AEMD's each SSC is put through a vigorous 19 week training course before they are allowed to take 911 calls and dispatch without a mentor overseeing their every action. 911 call taking and dispatching is audited regularly to a standard set by the International Academy of Emergency Dispatch and SSC's must meet extremely high level of compliance in order to maintain their AEMD status (minimum standard is 90 compliance).
SSC's must also re-certify every two years by completing at least 24 hours of Continuing Dispatch Education (CDE) as well pass an exam set by the International Academy of Emergency Dispatch.
When call taking the SSC's triage medical and traumatic emergencies, gather vital information which is communicated to the Paramedics as well as providing potential life-saving instructions over the phone so the caller or a bystander can initiate the provision of care prior to the paramedics arriving. When dispatching the SSC's assign the appropriate resources to each emergency situation that occurs; as well as manage the overall coverage of resources across the Niagara Region.
System Status Controller Work Stations
Working in the Communications Centre for 12 hours is mentally demanding, and the work is also sedentary, so ergonomics are extremely important to prevent fatigue in the AEMD's. To help prevent fatigue, the AEMD's have desks and chairs that have multiple adjustments; this allows desks and chairs to be moved to multiple heights and positions allowing the AEMD to customize their specific work space. Depending on the desk the AEMD is working at, they may monitor up to 6 computer screens, (CAD, Radio, Phone, Admin computers) as well as multiple keyboards and computer mice.
These computers run 24/7 and give the AEMD the ability to monitor and direct absolutely everything from one desk. It is without a doubt that this job requires an extraordinary ability to multitask and stay calm under pressure. Even with all the technology, Niagara EMS does a 'manual mode' once per month where the CAD technology is turned off for 4 hours. This process is done as part of the Niagara EMS contingency plan
All information provided above has been submitted and approved by Niagara Emergency Medical Services.