EMS dispatching by text

The Upper Peninsula 911 Authority bought a computer-aided dispatch system last year. For the last 10 months, emergency medical service agencies in the 10 counties covered by the 911 Authority have had the option being dispatched on service calls by receiving texts. Marquette County is one of those areas.

“The majority of our volunteer agencies are making use of it, along with our volunteer fire (departments), and even our full-time fire (departments),” Marquette County Central Dispatch manager Gary Johnson said. “It is less useful to the full-time EMS (agencies), as they’re on duty and ready to respond at a moment’s notice.”

“Most of EMS in the Upper Peninsula is provided by volunteers, and anything we can do to give them more resources is going to be better,” U.P. EMS Corporation executive director Bob Struck said. “They do a fantastic job and they need help, and this is just another technology that helps them help others.”

Once a dispatcher types and sends the message, all personnel with the receiving agency will have written information in front of them about where they need to go and what type of call it is.

“I’ve heard that the EMS people appreciate it,” Struck said. “It gives them extra information that they can use, and if it helps them get somewhere quicker, it’s better.”

A text can’t take the place of an 800-megahertz radio. It serves as a backup, but it can do some things that a radio would have a hard time with.

“Some people might be with their radio and they’re out of their range of where they would be,” Struck said. “If they don’t get their radio signal, they can get the telephone signal on there as a message to see that they’re needed somewhere.”

“We can go agency-specific or for all responders,” Johnson said. “If there’s a red-flag warning from the DNR for fire danger for a particular day, we can let all the firefighters in the county know that.”

Johnson says Central Dispatch is also developing a policy with law enforcement agencies on active shooter situations, such as in a school. The system can text all off-duty police officers in the county and ask them to respond.