911 Emergency Medical Dispatch

When a cardiac arrest occurs, saving a life may depend on the 9-1-1 caller starting CPR as quickly as possible. SaveMiHeart and 9-1-1 medical dispatch centers have partnered to help identify this need and educate emergency dispatchers on techniques to detect sudden-onset cardiac arrest and begin providing instructions to the 9-1-1 caller. Callers are urged to provide a location when placing a 9-1-1 call. 9-1-1 use a variety of tools to locate callers. Not all callers use the legacy technology of land-line phones. Land-lines allowed 9-1-1 emergency dispatchers to identify from a display on their equipment where the caller was located and a phone number. Currently, numerous callers use cell phones, computers, tablet devices or other technology to make a 9-1-1 call. This creates a challenge for 9-1-1 dispatchers to locate callers experiencing medical, law enforcement and fire emergencies. It is important that callers are aware of their surroundings in order to help the 9-1-1 dispatcher assist them as quickly as possible.

Emergency Medical Dispatchers who provide “Dispatch-Assisted CPR” help increase the rate of bystander CPR. Emergency Medical Dispatchers (EMD) have the opportunity to make a large impact on cardiac arrest survival. Citizens making a 9-1-1 call for a cardiac arrest may have to perform CPR. Barriers to callers starting CPR on their own include panic, concern about harming the patient, or worry about not performing CPR correctly.

Emergency Medical Dispatchers assist 9-1-1 callers identify the nature of the emergency, help calm panicking callers, and instruct the caller to initiate cardiac compressions. Most EMS dispatchers now tell the caller to perform "Hands-Only" CPR. Many 9-1-1 callers hesitate starting CPR due to a concern of performing mouth to mouth breathing. Hands-Only CPR does not require rescue breathing and has been shown to be effective in adult cardiac arrest victims.


A goal of SaveMiHeart is to improve delivery of Dispatch CPR instruction in Michigan. While many EMS systems across the country provide dispatcher-assisted CPR, it is not universal. We are working to accomplish this through regular meetings to discuss strategies in improved recognition of cardiac arrest by dispatchers and shortened time to initiation of CPR. SaveMiHeart is working to disseminate best practices, relevant literature on EMD training and research, and surveying the region on current EMD practices and quality improvement activities.

EMS dispatchers provide a crucial role in helping improve survival from out of hospital cardiac arrest. SaveMiHeart continues to encourage EMS systems to recognize their dispatchers. We will also make available, newspapers clips, public service announcements and videos that recognize the role of EMD in improving cardiac arrest survival in Michigan.

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