Care: Central dispatch is efficient

Published 5:15 pm Saturday, December 20, 2008

It would seem almost impossible that one man could keep track of multiple ambulances in 13 different places from one room.

But in Care Ambulance’s dispatch service in Montgomery, it isn’t impossible. In fact, it’s what’s expected.

While there is more than one person keeping watch of all of Care’s ambulances, the centralized dispatch service enables dispatchers to keep track of ambulances in all locations.

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With four controllers manning dispatch stations, Dispatch Supervisor Kenneth Adams said they are able to keep track closely of ambulances in 13 places: one dispatcher watching Montgomery, Tuskegee, Macon County, Tallassee and Prattville; one over Columbus, Ga., and Phenix City; one over Atlanta; and the other watching Selma, Dallas County, Perry County, Lowndes County and Pike County.

While some people expressed concern initially over using centralized dispatch in Pike County’s new ambulance contract awarded Dec. 12, Care Operations Manager Mike Sandell said local residents will be better suited by one dispatch area.

When a resident calls 911, Sandell said the call first goes to dispatch at the Troy Police Department, but he said there is little delay in transferring the call to a Care dispatcher in Montgomery, where dispatchers send out ambulances and provide medical advice on what to do while waiting.

So, when a call comes in from Troy, Adams said the address is searched from the listing on the dispatch computer and then mapped on Care’s Track Star technology.

Adams said every road in Pike County is mapped on the GPS systems, and they are updated monthly with new data provided from Pike County’s E911 board.

This ability, dispatchers said, provides a good accountability for the ambulance service, since response time is key in providing good care.

“We can see the whole picture,” said Dispatch Supervisor Ludie Carroll. “In any call, it’s all about the response time. We’re always going to try to use the ambulance that would have the quickest response time.”

Adams said the central dispatch allows ambulance dispatchers to see which trucks are closest to the incidents that call for service to bring the most immediate responses.

In addition, for non-emergencies, sometimes trucks are brought to Pike County from Montgomery so those stationed locally can be kept in Troy for emergencies.

“This is why we push for central dispatch,” Sandell said. “Just because you have local dispatch, wouldn’t mean you’d have local dispatchers.”

And, Sandell said even aside from this technology, his crew is spending an hour everyday learning roads in Pike County to provide the best service possible.

Care has received the ambulance contract, which will last for the next three years. Should the service requirements promised in the bid not be met the majority of the time in those three years, Care Ambulance has promised a $500,000 performance bond to the county.