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How to Accelerate 911 Responses to Healthcare Emergencies

With healthcare facilities having to comply with multiple safety regulations, the need to accelerate 911 responses to healthcare emergencies may not be at the top of every safety official´s priority list. However, accelerating 911 responses can save lives, mitigate property damage, and help support business continuity.

When emergencies occur at healthcare facilities, the facilities tend to be well-prepared. Most have to comply with OSHA´s health and safety regulations, NFPA´s fire safety codes, and CMS´ Emergency Preparedness Rule – notwithstanding they may also have to comply with state laws and local ordinances that address threats unique to their locations.

Nonetheless, while every type of potential threat may have been assessed and analyzed by safety officials, inconsistencies in the execution of emergency preparedness plans have been identified during real-life events and community-based exercises according to the Department of Homeland Security´s 2018 National Preparedness Report (PDF).

Some of the inconsistencies are attributable to delays in emergency response times. This issue can be due to a number of factors. For example there is a national shortage of 911 call dispatchers – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – and call volumes to 911 have increased year-on-year as a result of more people having access to mobile devices.

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Consequently, it is not always possible to answer every emergency call within the 10 seconds standard; and, when delays occur in dispatching emergency responses, the delays can lead to higher mortality rates, increased levels of property damage, and greater business disruption. It can also lead to first responders being less well prepared when they attend an emergency – increasing the risk to their personal safety, the safety of their teams, and the safety of the people they are trying to help.

Solutions to Accelerate 911 Responses to Healthcare Emergencies

Due to 911 call dispatchers having to undergo extensive training, PSAP vacancies cannot be filled overnight, and – even if all the vacancies were filled – there will still be occasions when delays exist between making a 911 call and the call being answered. Therefore, it is important to minimize the time between an emergency call being answered and emergency services being dispatched.

One of the ways to minimize delays is a mobile app provides 911 call dispatchers with information about the nature of the emergency and the location from which the call is being made. The app provides a choice of fire, police, medical, or other 911 emergency, plus has an active assailant button to further accelerate 911 response to healthcare emergencies in active assailant events.

The app also provides accurate location information to 911 call dispatchers so that the appropriate emergency service can be dispatched immediately while further information is being gathered. Even when the speed of dispatch is accelerated by just a few minutes, it can have a significant impact on the outcome of the emergency as the following statistics demonstrate:

  • Facilities may only have minutes to respond to a HAZMAT incident (source)
  • A building can become engulfed in flames within five minutes (source)
  • Active assailant events are usually over within 10 to 15 minutes (source)
  • Facilities may have as little as 18 minutes to respond to a cyberattack (source)

A mobile emergency app can also accelerate 911 responses to healthcare emergencies during severe weather events. Although healthcare facilities usually have plenty of notice prior to a flood or hurricane, such events can escalate quickly without warning. In these circumstances, healthcare facilities may require swift emergency assistance to evacuate staff and patients safely.

Solutions to Better Prepare First Responders for Emergency Events

Plenty of research has been conducted into the effects of trauma of first responders´ emotional health, but little into mitigating the causes of the trauma by better preparation. While this may be because different individuals respond in different ways to similar situations – and therefore the results would be inconclusive – there can be little doubt that if first responders were better prepared for the situations they were about to encounter, the outcomes would be more positive – both for responders and victims.

Unfortunately, there are no technological solutions for neutralizing emotions (and probably that is a good thing), but there are technical solutions for better preparing first responders for the physical environment they are about to encounter. These take the form of SaaS platforms healthcare facilities can populate in advance in order to provide up-to-the-minute information about campuses, access points, and personnel while first responders are on their way to a call.

This information can be accessed by first responders via their mobile devices so they can take the quickest route to the location of the emergency, quickly overcome potential obstacles such as gate codes, and be in touch with on-site personnel prior to their arrival. Due to the additional intelligence available to them prior to their arrival, incident commanders and first responders can make better-informed decisions about the most appropriate and quickest way to tackle an emergency.

Together, a mobile app and SaaS platforms can accelerate 911 responses to healthcare emergencies significantly – not only to save lives, but also to mitigate property damage and help support business continuity. Therefore although these technology solutions may not be required by federal, state, or local mandate, they can be cost-effective additions to any healthcare facility´s emergency preparedness planning in order to benefit both the healthcare facility and emergency services personnel.