September 25, 2020

Athens-Clark to assume EMD Responsibilities

Despite a proposed Commissioners’ Court agenda to reduce funding for Athens-Clark County Police Department (Georgia) up to 50% over the next 10 years indicating a dissent in support for public safety from the local community, Athens-Clark County Communications was able to gain support and budget approval for a significant change in its services. Athens-Clark will assume the emergency medical dispatching (EMD) responsibilities from National EMS, a private sector provider that the county has long since depended upon for emergency medical dispatching and ambulance services for 9-1-1 calls.

Currently when a citizen dials 9-1-1 with a medical emergency, the caller has to provide their nature of their emergency to a Athens-Clark dispatcher, only to repeat the information again to a National EMS dispatcher before an ambulance is dispatched. The interaction between the two communications centers occurs via non-emergency telephone lines which is not operationally efficient for public safety. Statistics provided by a local citizen that advocated for service improvements show that the numbers of calls over the last 5 years has increased substantially, e.g. while total number of ambulance calls for 2014 was 8,001, in 2016 the total number was 16, 618.

During that same time frame, at least 60% or more of those annual calls responded to by National EMS failed to have a response time with a national standard that requires an ambulance response time of under 9 minutes. By Athens-Clark assuming the EMD responsibilities, the duplication of work is eliminated which should translate into a reduction in response times calls.

The Athens-Clark County Police Department submitted a proposal for consideration to improve medical dispatch services to the community that outlined several options with pros and cons to each option. Options also included co-locating a National EMS dispatch within the ACCPD communications centers to reduce back and forth communications over non-emergency telephone lines between the two respective centers. However, the option recommended to the Court and approved was for ACCPD to assume the responsibilities.

The assumption of duties will not be automatic. Athens-Clark outlined a 3-year transition plan that includes the hiring of 10 additional dispatchers, dispatcher training on EMD protocols and implementing radio communications between ACCPD and National EMS.

In a time where public influence leans towards reducing funds from police departments, ACCPD has demonstrated that increasing staffing and directing budget dollars to programs internal to police departments can bring significant value to a communicate. Athens-Clark’s program will help increase dispatch efficiencies and reduce ambulance response times to help save lives.

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