Seal of Dane County County of Dane
County Executive's Office

County Executive, Public Safety Partners Call for Due Diligence in Reviewing 911 Protocols

March 11, 2014
Casey Slaughter Becker, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell 608.843.8858
County Executive



Flanked by emergency responders and public safety officials, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi today called for quick action by the committee responsible for establishing call-taking procedures for the 911 Center and emphasized the importance of calling 911 in the event of an emergency. 


The oversight committee of police, fire, and emergency medical representatives responsible for setting operating practices for the county’s 911 Center is due to start work Wednesday, March 12th, reviewing all dispatching protocols previously approved by the group and the 911 Center Board.  Today Parisi urged the group to proceed deliberately, but complete their work as soon as possible.


“Working together to develop solutions – not politics – is the key to improving public services,” Parisi said.  “Everyone is committed to a smartly run 911 system that gets the right emergency response started in the most time effective manner possible.  We have advanced technologies and trainings not available in many other 911 Centers and an incredibly professional team of dispatchers – better tools to get help to people quickly.”


The Dane County 911 Center receives nearly 400,000 calls each year and dispatches 85 different police, fire, and emergency medical agencies.  Those agencies use nearly 1,700 different resource types that determine which resources 911 dispatchers are supposed to send to emergencies.


80% of the emergencies that are reported to the 911 center are from cell-phone callers who often aren’t sure of the address where the emergency is occurring, causing delays in dispatch times.


Parisi cited new data showing that once the 911 Center knows where a fire emergency is occurring, and who the person is that is calling to report that emergency, those calls are sent to dispatchers to start the appropriate emergency response within an average of 47 seconds.


Currently, within those 47 seconds, dispatchers are asking questions to inform the type of emergency response – including what and how many units to send – a process known as Emergency Fire Dispatch.


For life threatening emergency medical calls in the county, the 911 Center currently cues those calls up for dispatch an average of 36 seconds after determining where the emergency is occurring.

Dr. Paul Stiegler, former Emergency Department Doctor at St. Mary’s Hospital, currently serves as the Medical Director of emergency medical dispatch for the 911 center. His duties include training dispatchers on providing emergency medical first aid over the phone to callers reporting medical emergencies, giving him a unique perspective on the dispatch process.


“For the last 10 years, Medical Priority Dispatch (MPDS) has also allowed the county and the city to send the right resources to critically ill patients – those who are not breathing, choking, or facing life threatening medical conditions – through our Automatic Advanced Life Support system that sends the closest paramedic regardless of jurisdiction,” said Dr. Stiegler.  “MPDSis a well researched, scripted protocol which allows for very early dispatch for critical patients. For those conditions where time of ambulance to patient is not as critical, we must make sure we collect the correct information to prevent over-sending resources, and an increased risk of ambulance crashes. We also have to gather information to help provide critical life saving instructions that  can be given to and used by the caller."


Deputy Chief Eric Bauman of the Blooming Grove Fire Department serves on the Operating Practices Committee (OPC) that begins its work tomorrow. Bauman is a registered nurse and paramedic with professional training on results analysis and evidence-based best practices.


“My interest as a member of the Operating Practices Committee will be to work with stakeholders to implement a policy that will benefit the county at large – with the public we serve as emergency response professionals and with the agencies that partner with the 911 center,” said Bauman. “It’s important that if changes are made, those changes are based on evidence and best practices that will work for everyone.”


Under a new “pre-alerting” pilot project initiated by the 911 Center at the end of this month, fire units from agencies that choose to participate will be started as soon as 911 dispatchers have indication of an active fire.  Participating departments in the pilot will be “pre-alerted” as soon as a 911 call-taker knows the address and nature of the emergency, who’s calling, and the number from which they are calling.  This “pre-alert” will start for agencies that chose to use it, the week of March 31st.


“Our residents deserve to know that their 911 system works and saves lives,” Parisi said.  “Last week’s shooting on Madison’s east side is just the latest example of how, every day, our quick thinking dispatchers are improving public safety and getting help to people who need it.” 


A 911 dispatcher was commended by the Madison Police Department Friday for helping to get the man suspected in a fatal shooting on Madison’s east side to put his weapon down, and helped obtain details of his description, making it easier for officers to take the suspect into custody shortly after the incident.


“An effective emergency response takes cooperation and a willingness to work together – dispatchers, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel – with shared expectations and an understanding of the challenges each faces,” Parisi said.  “For our 911 staff, that means taking the necessary time to figure out where emergencies are happening.”

# # #

Back to Press Releases