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New 911 protocol could change response times

10:07 PM, Mar 27, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- 911, what's your emergency?

How you answer that question could determine how fast emergency services get to you.

A new policy here in Duval County ranks how quickly emergency services respond to your concern. 

 It's called HOT and COLD.
 This new policy was recently implemented in Duval County and it determines if rescue services go out HOT, meaning with sirens blaring on their way to a call or cold, still a rescue unit, but no sirens.

Their response is determined by how you answer the dispatch questions when you call 911.

"Our EMS Dispatch is well trained on getting through all the questions, and it's very clear whether they're hot or cold," said JFRD's Medical Director Robery Kiely.

He said they have worked for months to develop the system, but have just implemented it in Jacksonville.

The dispatchers who answer the phone have a script of questions they run through to assess the emergency.


For example, if you have a toothache, that's cold.

However if you make a statement similar to, "It's so severe I can't see out of my right eye, my left arm is going numb. it upgrades immediately to a hot response. We always err on the side of caution with these," he said.

Kiely said since January 1st of this year, they've answered more than 20-thousand calls for help, and 70% of them were not emergency situations, but they only dispatched a unit cold 8% of the time.

Fire departments around the country have started using the same system because cutting the lights and sirens means cutting back on accidents for emergency vehicles on the way to the scene.

Still, some people are concerned a cold response could miss a true emergency.

"Anytime you have a new system, you have people who worry they may fall through the cracks, but we really haven't had many issues at all," said Kiely.

Kiely said the best way to call 911 is with specifics. He said the dispatcher will walk you through a series of questions, and try to answer as clearly as possible so they know whether your emergency is hot or cold.

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