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Erie County Department of Health highlights 'pioneering' 911 interactive education during National EMS Week


Mon, May 20th 2024 03:05 pm

National Emergency Medical Services Week is May 19-25

Submitted by the Erie County Department of Health

Rain or shine, day or night, even during a solar eclipse, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and volunteers stand ready to provide lifesaving care.

EMS Week is a national campaign that celebrates the frontline heroes dedicated to providing lifesaving emergency medical care.

The Erie County Department of Health is proudly highlighting its pioneering “Reach Out to 911” education initiative that began last year at the Erie County Fair. The program aims to educate the public about the appropriate times and methods for calling 911. It addresses a gap in existing educational resources by teaching the importance of seeking help, and specifically how and when to engage with the 911 system.

So far, more than 1,000 individuals have participated in the “Reach Out to 911” training, with classes for children and adults scheduled every week.

“ ‘See a need, fill a need’ was the motto behind the inspiration of this new program,” said MERS Coordinator Elizabeth Forkl.

"Our dispatchers, often unseen heroes behind the calls, play a crucial role in guiding distressed callers through their most urgent moments,” MERS Coordinator Andrew Marts added.

Marts and Forkl are lead organizers for this initiative.

“Every second that you can save on a 911 call has the potential to save a life in a moment of crisis,” Forkl said.

Developed in response to a recognized need for greater emergency preparedness, the initiative familiarizes people with emergency protocols, reducing the anxiety of making a 911 call during actual emergencies.

“The first time you want to call 911 is not in the middle of a crisis,” Deputy Commissioner of Health Gregory Gill said.

The training includes a comprehensive setup using the 911 simulator and the Prepared Live system, which allows dispatchers to visually assess situations using live video calls, enhancing their ability to provide immediate assistance. This system is particularly effective in guiding callers experiencing medical emergencies, crucial in the minutes before EMS arrival. The program also supports live translation services for non-English speakers.

Another intent of this training is to instruct citizens about when it is necessary to call 911 and when it is appropriate to use another service like 211 or 988, so that people who are in less-urgent situations don’t inappropriately call 911 and unnecessarily clog up the phone line.

Currently offered upon request, the presentations last between 45 and 60 minutes, depending on the audience, and include a mix of video demonstrations, interactive simulations, and discussions designed to build community resilience and preparedness. At present, there are seven customized presentations tailored to diverse groups – from children under 5 years old to older adults, including those with special needs.

“Our team is staying very busy, presenting to groups around the county several times per month,” Gill said.

As we celebrate EMS Week, Erie County invites schools, businesses and community groups to engage with this essential program, tailored to equip every resident with the knowledge to make informed, lifesaving decisions in times of crisis.

For more information or to schedule a presentation, contact “Reach Out To 911” at 45 Elm St., Buffalo; at 716-431-3774; email [email protected]; or visit https://www3.erie.gov/ems/reach-out-911.

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