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Longboat Key Friday, Jan. 10, 2020 2 years ago

Longboat fire chief speaks about proper use of 911

Longboat Key fire chief Paul Dezzi addressed the process behind 911 dispatch, when to call 911 and more.
by: Brendan Lavell Staff Writer

If you’ve ever wondered why 911 operators ask so many questions, you’re not alone.

Longboat Key Fire Rescue Department Chief Paul Dezzi addressed this topic, among other concerns and misconceptions regarding the use of 911, while speaking to Longboat Key Kiwanis Club on Thursday morning at Lazy Lobster.

Dezzi said the complaint the Longboat Key fire department hears most often is that the 911 operator kept them on the phone too long. But the operators do this for a reason.

If the operator doesn’t know a caller’s location, that will be one of the first things they ask. And when the operator continues asking questions, it doesn’t mean emergency vehicles aren’t on the way yet.

“Our response time here anywhere on the Key is five minutes,” Dezzi said. “Once we get the call we’ll be there in five minutes.”

As soon as the operator knows the location of the emergency, they send it to the dispatch so the appropriate vehicles can start driving. But as the operator asks more questions, they continue relaying vital information to the in-transit first responders. They can even adjust the specific emergency response if necessary.

“Yesterday, we had a call where they said a man fell,” Dezzi said. “Well, if you just call us and say the man fell, we're going to send just an ambulance. As they answered the questions, [we found out] the man was on a ladder 12 feet up in the air and fell on his head. That changed the whole response. You get a battalion officer, you get the fire truck, you get the ambulance, and you get everybody. Everybody's going to it. And that turned out to what we call a trauma alert. We alert the hospital, ‘We’re coming with a trauma patient, have the trauma team standing by.’”

Dezzi added that the trauma patient “did fine.”

The other main point of Dezzi’s presentation was an instruction not to drive yourself to the hospital if you are sick or injured. He has seen many instances of people who thought they could make it to the emergency room, only to get sick on the road and pull over. Then, when they would call emergency services, many of them struggled to provide a location precise enough to find easily.

Dezzi also stressed that residents can call 911 at any time of day on any day of the year. He said some people don’t seem to know emergency services have no days off.

“People will say Christmas. They’ll say the chief’s birthday,” Dezzi said. “People do think we are closed. And we're not closed. We’ll go to people's houses out here, and they’ll apologize to us, ‘I'm sorry I woke you up at 3 in the morning.’ That's why we're here. We don't want people to wait. ... A lot of people here like to wait. They don't want to bother you. [It’s] after midnight and they don’t want to call 911. 911 is 24 hours a day.”

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Brendan Lavell is a general assignment reporter for the Observer. He earned degrees in journalism and history at the University of Missouri. He has visited 48 of the 50 United States, has a black cat named Arya and roots for the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, 76ers and Chelsea FC.

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