"When Minutes Matter:" New 911 protocol allows dispatchers to tell callers how to help patient

PORT WASHINGTON -- "When Minutes Matter." It is the name of a new life-saving campaign for 911 dispatchers in Ozaukee County. The goal is to help more people survive life threatening emergencies, like a heart attack, with your help.

It's not common for a 911 dispatcher to have the authority or the training to give medical advice before paramedics arrive. Now it is standard protocol in Ozaukee County, thanks to a new 911 system and Aurora Healthcare.

In cases of choking, the system instructs how to do the Heimlich maneuver. With a massive hemorrhage it instructs how to control the bleeding. And in the case of a cardiac arrest, it can give CPR instructions.

"For every minute you go without CPR, your chance of survival decreases 10 percent," said Dr. Steven Zils, the Out-of-Hospital Medical Director and emergency physician at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.

Now, during the six to eight minutes it could take for an ambulance to arrive, someone else knows how to help.
"If we can get callers and bystanders to perform CPR, those chances of survival will greatly increase," said Dr. Zils.

"We can tell you where to locate your hands on somebody`s chest, we can tell you how fast and how far the compressions need to be applied," said Lt. Cory McCormick with the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office.

The dispatchers don`t need any advanced medical training beyond CPR. What is really important,  is to be able to understand how to work the system, which is what they are trained for. They can categorize the emergency and carefully communicate to you the directions on the screen, on how to handle it.

"It is not like we are teaching you or telling you how to do surgery, that`s not it. These are basic life saving techniques," said Lt. McCormick.

And no matter how stressful the situation is

"They need to stay calm," said Lt. McCormick.

The new system is installed at the Port Washington and Grafton 911 centers. It will soon be in place in Mequon and Cedarburg. The system cost about $100,000 to install and was paid for by the Aurora Foundation and Ozaukee County.