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UMass Taps Call-Em-All To Contact EMTs
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UMass Taps Call-Em-All To Contact EMTs

July 27, 2010
By Brendan B. Read
Senior Contributing Editor

There are few more truly mission-critical calls than those from emergency medical services (EMS) departments to their emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics so they can help those who are injured, ill and in life-threatening situations. The quicker they can be contacted the faster they can get to the patients.

My son knows. He was working as a paramedic when he got a call just after 9am to get his tail from his-then Staten Island home to Manhattan ASAP. The date: September, 11, 2001…Now he’s doing just that as a paramedic supervisor for one of New Jersey’s largest hospital, reaching out to his teams. And to keep his hand in literally he still does 9-1-1 calls one day a week in New York City.

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell (UMass-Lowell) is a city in its own right with some 12,000 students. UMass Lowell EMS provides 24-hour emergency medical services to the students, faculty and staff as well as the surrounding community with a team of approximately 25 EMTs. It has responded to thousands of calls ranging from minor cuts and bruises to life-threatening situations including drug overdoses, respiratory and cardiac emergencies, attempted suicides and physical assaults. 

UMass-Lowell realized that it needed to shrink the time to contact its EMTs. It has a different situation than my son’s hospital in that its responders are also full-time and part-time students, much like volunteer fire and search-and-rescue departments.

“We needed a way to instantly contact each of them no matter where they are,” said Mathew Ricci, director of operations at UMass Lowell EMS. “During a large scale emergency situation, you can’t take the time to dial 25 phone numbers and provide instructions to 25 people.”

In response, in 2009 UMass contacted and deployed Call-Em-All’s voice messaging platform. This allowed Ricci to make just one call which goes out to every one of his emergency responders. In a matter of minutes, he can send a mass voice message that is received by all 25 EMTs alerting them about the emergency situation, requesting their assistance and providing instructions on where they should report.

For example, in Dec. 2009, Ricci used Call-Em-All to alert the EMTs of an emergency situation that developed as a result of an ice storm that swept New England. It left 1.25 million homes and businesses without power, forcing schools to close and toppling ice-laden trees and power lines onto slippery roads.

“Massachusetts declared a state of emergency and was in dire need of EMTs that could assist shelters that were giving aid to families, the elderly and the homeless,” said Ricci. “We used Call-Em-All to send a message to all of our EMTs with instructions on where to report.  As a result, we were able to help staff the city shelters in minutes during a time when the area’s resources were so strained that it would have been impossible to address everyone’s medical needs.”

In addition to instantly alerting its EMTs of an emergency, Call-Em-All enables UMass Lowell EMS to easily track who is receiving each message. For example, during a physical assault incident in a nearby community, Ricci used the Call-Em-All platform to monitor which of his EMTs were answering the calls and which messages were being sent to voicemail.

“Knowing when each of our EMTs is receiving a message is critical because it allows us to plan accordingly,” said Ricci. “If there is an emergency situation that requires more people than those that answered the message, we know to immediately request additional help from surrounding emergency responders.”

UMass Lowell EMS reserves Call-Em-All for emergency circumstances only. And since Call-Em-All offers a pay-as-you-go plan, UMass Lowell EMS does not pay regular subscription or maintenance fees.

“Even though we have almost all of the same capabilities as a regional EMS service provider, we don’t have a very large budget,” said Ricci. “Call-Em-All is one of the most affordable and effective tools that we use for responding to emergency situations.”

Brendan B. Read is TMCnet’s Senior Contributing Editor. To read more of Brendan’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Erin Monda

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