UMC EMS and LFR begin use of medical priority dispatch

Lubbock Fire Rescue and UMC EMS are improving the way they respond to 9-1-1 medical emergencies. Beginning later this month, the partner agencies will start using medical priority dispatch, which is designed to better utilize resources and increase safety for the public and first responders.

For the past decade, an ambulance and fire truck responded to every medical emergency in Lubbock, with warning lights and sirens sounding. Under medical priority dispatch, first responders will be dispatched this way only in truly life-threatening situations. While each call for medical help will be answered immediately, in some cases first responders will arrive without lights and sirens and with normal flow of traffic.

“Responding to emergencies is a leading cause of death and injury for both firefighters and EMS personnel, and when there is a collision involving emergency vehicles and civilian vehicles, there are almost always civilian injuries,” said Lance Phelps, chief of LFR. “Utilizing the medical priority dispatch system will allow us to reduce the risk of accidents for first responders and our citizens by traveling without lights and sirens when response time is not critical to patient outcome.”

Medical Priority Dispatch was developed in the 1970s and is used internationally today. Dispatchers use a sophisticated question-and-answer system to quickly analyze the severity of the medical emergency and then send resources appropriately.

“All UMC EMS dispatchers have been certified in the use of this program,” said Jeff Hill, UMC vice president, support services. “Questions are asked in a standardized format, which is scientifically supported and continually validated by an international body of medical experts. This will ensure patients receive the response they need and resources are available to handle urgent calls that may come in later.”

To help explain what medical priority dispatch means to our community, UMC and LFR have produced a short video, available on UMC Health System’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.

UMC Health System is ranked among the top 10 percent of hospitals in the nation for patient experience by HealthGrades, and has consistently ranked among the best places to work in Texas by the Best Companies Group. More than 500,000 patients a year choose UMC.

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