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Getting You the Right Help at the Right Time

Calling 911 can be scary, but it’s nice to know that when you’re in danger, there’s someone on the other end of the phone that can help.


Emergency dispatchers are highly trained professionals who just might save your life or the life of a loved one while you’re waiting for emergency crews to arrive.

Your Responsiblity

What to Expect

Never hang up on a dispatcher, even if you call accidentally. Do not get off the phone until the dispatcher has told you to do so. The dispatcher will continue to give you instructions and ask important questions for your safety and the safety or the victim(s) until paramedics, officers, and firefighters are on scene.


It can be difficult keeping your emotions in check, especially if you’re the one in danger or if a loved one’s life is in jeopardy. But it’s crucial to stay calm and answer all questions as best you can. The more you can tell the dispatcher, the more he or she can help you. Remember that every question dispatchers ask and every bit of direction they give is based on years of experience and evidence.

When you call your local emergency number, if your center uses the Priority Dispatch Protocols, the dispatcher will start with these questions and instructions:


  1. What’s address of the emergency?

  2. What’s the phone number you’re calling from?

  3. What’s your name? (FPDS and PPDS)

  4. Okay, tell me exactly what happened.


It’s vital that you provide an exact address if possible. If you don’t know the address, provide a nearby landmark, intersection, or name of the business you’re in or near. Your phone number is also important, especially if you are calling from a cellphone. Once you describe the emergency, the dispatcher can send the right help or can continue with questions that will help determine your needs.

The Priority Dispatch Protocols


These protocols, known as the Priority Dispatch Protocols, include key questions that dispatchers will ask you to help determine what type of help to send. The protocols also have instructions the emergency dispatcher will give you to help keep you safe or to help you give lifesaving aid to the victim or victims while you are waiting for authorities to arrive. 


There are three protocol systems: Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®), Fire Priority Dispatch System™ (FPDS®), and Police Priority Dispatch System™ (PPDS®). Each system addresses common emergency situations, including:

  • Gas Leak

  • Outside Fire

  • Structure Fire

  • Burglary

  • Domestic Disturbance/Violence

  • Robbery

  • Weapons/Assailant

  • Active Assailant

  • Drugs

  • Breathing Problems

  • Cardiac or Respiratory Arrest

  • Choking

  • Electrocution

  • Overdose

  • Pregnancy/Childbirth/Miscarriage

  • Traumatic Injuries

  • Electrical Hazard

  • Explosion


Help Me!!

My baby has stopped breathing, tell me what to do!

This caller’s 9-1-1 communication center could tell her exactly what to do because they were using MPDS. The certified calltaker was able to quickly gather the crucial information needed to dispatch responders and then, working together with the mother using overthe-phone Pre-Arrival instructions, they helped her baby begin breathing again on his own, even before the paramedics arrived. The baby made a complete and healthy recovery. Cases like this one and millions of others are why the MPDS is the most widely used and respected calltaking protocol worldwide.


My friend and I were working on a car and now his clothes are on fire!”

Help Me!!

This caller’s 9-1-1 communication center could tell him exactly what to do because they were using the FPDS. The center quickly gathered information to dispatch responders. Then using pre-arrival instructions giving the caller step-by-step lifesaving
information to extinguish the fire and keep the
person safe until responders arrived on scene.

Question Help, not Hinder

Many callers complain that dispatchers ask too many questions. Callers often wonder why the dispatcher doesn’t simply send help right away. The truth is, the person on the other end of the line is dispatching units as quickly as possible. Their questions determine whether to send paramedics, police officers, or fire crews, or any appropriate combination of these responders. These questions are not delaying response; they are improving the chances of a better outcome.  


Dispatchers ask questions to ensure your safety and the safety of the victim(s) and any bystanders in the area. Your answers help the dispatcher give you proper instructions—directions that may keep the victim alive while emergency crews are on their way.

For example, the dispatcher may instruct you on some of the following:

  • How to perform the Heimlich maneuver

  • How to check a person’s airway

  • How to do CPR

  • How to deliver a baby

  • How to handle bleeding emergencies

  • What to do if you are in a burning building

  • What to do if you smell leaking gas

  • What to do if someone if trying to break into your home

  • How to handle a domestic violence situation

Priority Dispatch System Features

Use of a Case Entry system. The PPDS/FPDS Protocol provides a standardized method for answering each call. Event location and callback numbers are verified and the appropriate Chief Complaint is selected.

Identification and ordering of Key Questions. The protocol identifies and prompts the

dispatcher to ask the right questions for each
Chief Complaint. The questions and information
are logically ordered with scene safety first,
followed by other essential information.

Logic-based selection of Response
Recommendations for response
codes are driven by on-scene event information
provided by the caller. The specific response codes ensure that calls are triaged according to designated local agency-defined response policy.

Provides Pre-Arrival Instructions to improve both caller and responder safety while providing a Zero-Minute Response in time-critical situations. In these incidents, the protocol prompts the calltaker to give easy-to-follow, step-by-step Pre-Arrival Instructions to the caller to support life until field responders arrive.

Provides Post-Dispatch Instructions for callers
and calltakers.
These important instructions help
the calltaker direct the caller to improve scene
safety and the effectiveness of the overall response,
as well as providing direction to the calltaker in
sending notification to additional agencies.

For more information, view our Priority Dispatch System documents below

FPDS Screenshot.png
MPDS Screenshot.png
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