Emergency Dispatchers & CPR

Dispatcher-Assisted Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Cardiac Arrest Centers

This 2019 focused update to the American Heart Association systems of care guidelines summarizes the most recent published evidence for and recommendations on the use of dispatcher-assisted cardiopulmonary resuscitation and cardiac arrest centers. This article includes the revised recommendations that emergency dispatch centers should offer and instruct bystanders in cardiopulmonary resuscitation during out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and that a regionalized approach to post-cardiac arrest care may be reasonable when comprehensive postarrest care is not available at local facilities.

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Emergency Dispatchers Coach CPR

Several studies have found that SCA survival rate depends on where a person suffers their event. Until now, there have been few ideas on how to combat this issue. A story on National Public Radio on May 25, 2012 showcases a simple and innovative program: train emergency dispatchers to coach CPR over the phone. Communities who have tried the program have shown up to a 50% increase in survival rate–that’s amazing! These efforts will also empower bystanders to take action and help save lives.

Becky Cole was eight months pregnant with her fourth child when she collapsed against the bathroom door. It was January 2011 in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville.

“I got up to go brush my teeth, and that’s the last thing I remember,” she says.

Her husband, Jon, heard the loud crash and called 911.

“She’s fallen down, and she doesn’t look like she’s breathing. I need an emergency ambulance right now,” he told the dispatcher. What happened next is typical in many cities across the country, but it’s not nearly as universal as you might expect.

When Jon Cole explained that his wife was unconscious and appeared to not be breathing, the dispatcher instructed him on how to perform CPR. He switched to speakerphone and the dispatcher led him through the process, step by step.

“I was so worried about doing it wrong that I clung to every word that dispatcher said. Because this is my wife, this is my best friend,” he says.

Soon, the medics arrived and took over, but Jon Cole had kept her blood flowing with CPR for six minutes.

Source: www.NPR.org by Keith Seinfeld

Read the full story or listen to the recorded podcast

More Information

The American Heart Association’s guidelines regarding CPR and Emergency Cardiovascular Care poses four recommendations for emergency medical services (EMS) systems and 9-1-1 dispatchers:


Dispatchers should assess whether someone has had a cardiac arrest and if so, tell callers how to administer CPR immediately.


Dispatchers should confidently give Hands-Only CPR instructions for adults who have had a cardiac arrest not caused by asphyxia (as in drowning).


Communities should measure performance of dispatchers and local EMS agencies, including how long it takes until CPR is begun.


Performance measurements should be part of a quality assurance program involving the entire emergency response system including EMS and hospitals.

Original Publication: “Emergency CPR Instruction via Telephone” (Am J Public Health 1985; 75:47-50.) Eisenberg, et al.

Get in touch with your local emergency dispatch center and ask if they train their dispatchers in CPR coaching.