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Fire Department reviews its use of priority dispatch

OSWEGO, NY – In April of 2006, in conjunction with the Oswego County E911 Center, the Oswego Fire Department has been utilizing “Priority-based Emergency Medical Dispatch.”

The system has proven to work very well, and assists fire department management in dispatching the appropriate units on emergency medical services alarms.

This procedure also brings the City’s emergency medical responses in line with nationally-accepted medical response protocols.

When a resident calls 911 to request emergency medical services, the call-taker asks a series of questions related to the patient’s complaint or condition.

The answers to these questions cause the call-taker to navigate through a series of cards which ultimately classifies the severity or priority of the alarm.

The severity of the call is divided into one of five priorities:  Alpha through Echo.

For example, minor complaints such as toothaches, earaches, chronic back pain, etc. are deemed non-emergent, and are classified A for Alpha.

Conversely, those patients which are suffering from severe difficulty breathing, stroke, chest pain indicative of a heart attack would be classified D for Delta.

Extreme cases, such as a person not breathing, CPR in progress, near-drowning, etc. are classified E for Echo and dictate a greater response.

The Oswego Fire Department utilizes a step-wise approach to these alarms, as follows:

Alpha:  ambulance with two personnel using no lights or sirens.
Bravo and Charlie:  ambulance with two personnel with use of lights and sirens
Delta:  ambulance with two personnel and the nearest engine company with a supervisor and additional paramedics to assist with patient care all with lights and sirens.
Echo:  ambulance with two personnel and the nearest engine company with a supervisor, additional paramedics and the nearest Oswego Police Department unit with an Automated External Defibrillator.  The additional personnel are needed for victim removal, CPR, lifting, as well as advanced procedures such as IV insertion, intubation (breathing tube insertion), medication administration, etc.

Once patient care is completed, the ambulance transports to the most appropriate hospital, and the engine company returns to service.