The American Heart Association estimates that there are more than 356,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) annually and that about 90 percent are fatal. Reducing response times to OHCAs and ensuring quicker initiation of CPR and defibrillation is critical to saving lives.
Some studies show response times decrease when trained and equipped firefighters or police are dispatched with EMS. But how significant is the time difference between when a fire unit arrives and when EMS does? Can the earlier intervention by trained firefighters really contribute significantly to a positive outcome?
A recent study1 involving the Houston Fire Department evaluated the survivability outcomes when EMT-trained firefighters were dual-dispatched with EMS units. It measured the return of spontaneous circulation in OHCA victims under a variety of conditions such as the type of heart rhythm, whether bystander CPR was conducted first, and whether the cardiac event was witnessed.
Fire apparatus arrived first on scene almost half (46.7 percent) of the time on OHCA calls and on average about 2 minutes before the first EMS unit arrived. They beat EMS to OHCA cases by a median time of 1.5 minutes. These 1.5 minutes matter. Consider this:
- Dual dispatch of EMT-trained firefighters shortens response time and leads to a significant increase in the chance for survival.
- It did not matter how soon the later arrival of the EMS unit occurred. EMT-trained and equipped firefighters can make the difference by reducing the all-critical response time.
- The Houston Fire Department used this study to justify to City of Houston leaders the continued use of dual dispatch. The authors of this study believe that dual dispatch has the potential to achieve these same results in other large cities.
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1Raun, L., Pederson, J., Campos, L., Ensor, K., Persse, D. (2018). Effectiveness of the dual dispatch to cardiac arrest policy in Houston, Texas. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: 2018 Sep 11. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000836. [Epub ahead of print].
Effectiveness of the Dual Dispatch to Cardiac Arrest Policy
This summary is for informational purposes only. As such, the content does not reflect any official positions, policies or guidelines on behalf of the sender, the U.S. Fire Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, nor any other federal agencies, departments or contracting entities. Similarly, this summary does not represent in any manner an official endorsement or relationship to any private or public companies, organizations/associations, or any authors or individuals cited or websites associated within the article.
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: Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times