September 4, 1995
From Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
DECATUR, Georgia (CNN) -- Not all Emergency Medical Systems are created equal. There's no standard for design and implementation or quality -- and the result could be the difference between life and death.
A recent, well-publicized tragedy: 10 calls to 9-1-1 in an hour's time before emergency teams arrived to tend a 16- year-old beaten with bottles and baseball bats. The boy died the next day.
"Certainly less than 25 percent, 20 percent of communities in America can assure you you'll get the best possible chance of survival by dialing 9-1-1," says Jack Stout, a consultant who designs emergency response systems. (418K AIFF sound)
But just as some systems are designed to fail, others are making a more positive impact. In DeKalb County, Georgia, dispatchers hold ambulances for life-threatening emergencies. "Emergency Response Vehicles" handle less serious calls.
But EMS officials in DeKalb County say that sometimes the type of calls made to 9-1-1 can impact the quality of service.
"A majority of (calls to the system) is misuse," says Lt. Clarence Stalling of the DeKalb County EMS.
Knowing the appropriate instances to call for emergency help is a simple matter: do it when the victim's condition appears life-threatening; if the condition could worsen on the way to the hospital; if moving the victim could cause further injury; or if the equipment or skills of paramedics are necessary.
Still, experts say it may be tough for you to know just how good your emergency medical system is. And you may not find out until you dial 9-1-1.
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