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What Happens When
You Call 911?
by: Barbara Payne

ccemsThe Cypress Creek EMS Communications Center was originally established as a non-profit joint venture of CCEMS and four area fire departments in 1983.  The Comm Center was purchased by CCEMS in 1996 in an effort to balance and manage capital improvements in the Comm Center. 
The Comm Center provides 911 emergency dispatch of fire and ambulance services throughout our service area.  With a staff of specially trained EMTs, the Comm Center can process emergency calls for help in an average of 16 seconds. CCEMS

This process allows the dispatcher to stay on the phone with the caller while another dispatcher is sending help.  While on the phone, the dispatcher gathers information about the patient and provides instructions to the caller until help arrives.

According to Frank Marshall, Comm Center director, “We have made some major improvements to our 9-1-1 response capabilities, and this investment is showing up in the statistics.  Upgrading our computer system a while back added speed and reliability.  Now, we’re upgrading again to graphic user interface -- GUI --  and this makes the old CAD system look like a DOS based program.  This new package is much more user friendly.”
“So, what has all this updating accomplished,” Frank asked.  “The most dramatic result has been the decrease in dispatch time from 34 seconds to 14-15 seconds.  In 1996, the dispatch time was 1 minute and in 1999 it was below 18 seconds; that’s a huge difference.  The new computer programs certainly made an impact,” he continued, “but so did a comprehensive training program.”

At the other end of the 9-1-1 calls are dispatchers with a minimum training of EMT along with certification by the National Academy of Emergency Medical Dispatch (NAEMD).

“We take a lot of justifiable pride in the caliber of our dispatchers,” Marshall said.  “They are, after all, the first point of contact that we have with the public and their reaction to a crisis call can very well color the whole experience as well as make a difference in the outcome of the call.  These people have to be compassionate and they have to be able to do several things  -- listen, use the computer and radio equipment and provide critical information to the caller --  successfully, all at one time.”

Marshall explains that with the improved computer programs and additional training efforts, the dispatchers are able to have better control over the call, and they now triage (prioritize) the calls and provide appropraite pre-arrival instructions to all callers.  The system is unique, he says, in that it better determines the appropriate level of response to a 9-1-1 call.

“We are satisfied that the Comm Center buy-out has improved our ability to accomplish what we’re here for -- provide the best possible response to calls for emergency assistance.  We are fortunate,” Marshall says, “to have a Board of Directors that looks ahead and tends to act rather than react.”

The next equipment upgrade is likely to be the 13 year old dictaphone logger that records all the 9-1-1 calls.  Although the equipment still has some good years left, Marshall says they will replace it before a failure or probem forces action in an emergency scenario.


Marshall says that CCEMS, like other businesses and organizations anticipating the Y2K computer issues, has thoroughly assessed “every piece of electronic equipment we use.” 

“All of our computers have been carefully gone over and any upgrades or modifications have already been taken care of, tested and compliance confirmed, so we are anticipating a smooth transition into the next century.”

The 9-1-1 system does not rely on conventional dating, but uses a chronological progression from “day 1.”  Marshall says that Day 10,000 had some of the same stigma and anxiety attached to it as does January 1, 2000, and said that they came through this “event” without incident.

Each year, the comm center handles between 18,000 to 20,000 calls within their approximate geographical boundaries of the Harris County line to the north (excluding Tomball), Jones Road to the west, Humble to the east, and the City limits to the south.
“We have invested millions of dollars in the necessary hardware, equipment and manpower training to make CCEMS one of the best providers of quality emergency care in the nation,” Marshall explained,  “and we have a strong commitment to continue to make the necessary investments in the years ahead. 

I want to stress that we could have the very best equipment in the world, but if we don’t train on that equipment to take full advantage of the capabilities that equipment makes possible, it would just be equipment...we’d be nowhere without our people.”

The MCV-1


In 1998, Cypress Creek EMS purchased a Mobile Command Vehicle (MCV-1).  In addition to an on-board mobile repeater and a multitude of mobile and handheld radios, this 12 ft. aluminum body step van is equipped with multiple telephone lines, a computer data line, and a fax line.  This vehicle is a full-functioning back-up to the Comm Center. 

Additionally,  MCV-1 is dispatched to multi-alarm fires, natural disasters (such as when a tornado touched down in October 1998), and special events (the Texas Crawfish Festival in Old Town Spring and The Tour Championship Golf Tournament).

“From MCV-1, we can coordinate all activities during an incident,” Marshall said, “including triage, treatment and transportation for injuries as well as fire and rescue operations.  We have this sophisticated equipment because our Board of Directors recognizes  what it takes to fulfill our total responsibility to this community.  We are not just an ambulance service.”

Where do we go from here?

Emergency calls are rising at an incredible rate.  Through an efficient use of computerized resources, CCEMS will continue to appropriate capital expenditures for upgrading communications and computer equipment.  Toward the end of this year and into 2000, the Comm Center facility will undergo some renovation to add four call taker positions Marshall explains are necessary because of the increase in phone calls...both emergency and non-emergency.
In addition, there are a number of upgrades they’re looking at through next year.  “We want onboard status capability for ambulances and fire equipment to be able update us on the status of aparatus in the field as well as automatic vehicle location tracking.  These will help minimize radio traffic, make us more efficient and more accurate in status reporting and coordination.”

“Looking forward a few more years,” Frank said, “I would expect us to be as successful in our long-range plans for the next decade as we have been so far.” 

“We have the support of our Board, we have an incredible team of highly trained and willing volunteers, we have strong managment, and we are fortunate enough to serve a community that has high expectations and regard for its emergency services, and that’s a pretty good place to start.” 

Cypress Creek Emergency Medical Services -- CCEMS -- was founded in 1975 to provide top quality, dependable, 24-hour emergency medical services for residents living in the unincorporated FM 1960 of Houston, Texas. CCEMS responds to 9-1-1 medical emergency calls in a 250 square mile area of north Harris County, and serves a population of over 450,000 people. Over the last 24 years, CCEMS teams have responded to more than100,000 calls.

Today, CCEMS has 7 stations and 9 fully-equipped Mobile Intensive Care Units licensed by the state of Texas. CCEMS responds to an average of 1100 calls per month -- double the response pattern of five years ago.

Including 9-1-1 dispatch time, callers wait an average of only 6 minutes 50 seconds for the ambulance to arrive. CCEMS First Responders, trained volunteers located throughout the community, dispatched at the same time as the ambulance, often arrive on the scene within five minutes to begin providing expert emergency care.

CCEMS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit volunteer based organization that relies on contributions from area residents, businesses and civic organization for funding, supplemented by Third Party Billing for service calls in which emergency services and transport are provided.



Humble, Tx Atascocita, Tx Kingwood, Tx