The Preemption Pause

The Preemption Pause

A message primarily to: Operations members

The Preemption Pause

Not so fast, buckaroo

I had planned for this to be my Sterile Cockpit article, but there’s something else we want to share with you first.

Recent changes

Clearly our earlier articles have had an impact.  Personnel have been doing a great job of announcing their locations when going Enroute and when becoming Available.  As hoped, all on-air personnel seem to have a much clearer idea of how we are handling calls.  Generally, folks seem to be using good judgement about when to voice their locations and when radio traffic is too congested.  It sounds crisp and efficient, and we are measuring to see if it is improving response times.  Keep up the good work!


Preemption in particular

But here’s a situation we need to address:  Preemption (“pree-EMP-shun”).  In our world, preemption is when one unit replaces another unit going to a call.  For instance, when Ambulance 621 is responding from Creeds to the Lesner Bridge, and Ambulance 123 finishes a refusal at Westminster-Canterbury and responds in 621’s place, we say that Ambulance 621 has been “preempted” by Ambulance 123.  This is a good thing, because it better serves the patient on the Lesner Bridge.

But there’s something you should know about the CAD.  When no units are assigned to a case — even for a millisecond — the case disappears from the dispatcher’s screen.  So in the above example, if Ambulance 621 hears that Ambulance 123 is Enroute and quickly marks themselves Available — but the dispatcher hasn’t actually had a chance to put Ambulance 123 on the case in the CAD — the Lesner Bridge case goes into La-La-Land, and it becomes very difficult for the dispatcher to find it, re-open it, and put Ambulance 123 on it.

This can be very disruptive.  So we want you to adopt a practice we’ll call The Preemption Pause.  The Preemption Pause is when a unit deliberately stays on a case long enough for the preemption to be entered into the CAD.


Two ways to be a Preemption Pause Expert

There are two acceptable ways to perform The Preemption Pause:

  • METHOD #1:  Do not mark Available until the dispatcher says you can Cancel.  This works in all situations.
  • METHOD #2:  Verify on the MDT that the replacement unit has been assigned to the case.  This works if you are at your MDT.


Method #1 — the details

Method #1 is self-explanatory.  When using this method, do not mark Available until the dispatcher says you can Cancel.


Method #2 — the details

Let’s say you are Ambulance 925 responding to a case, and Ambulance 220 is going to preempt you.  When you are on the My Call screen on the MDT, you’ll see something like this:

When you are preempted by Ambulance 220, you must WAIT until you see that the replacement unit is also assigned to the case, like this:

Now you can mark yourself Available.  Since the unit that preempted you is now on the case, the case will stay open.


Wrap up

You are contributing to the team’s Common Operating Picture.  You are keeping us on a Tight Dispatch Cycle.  And now you are being considerate to the dispatcher and practicing The Preemption Pause.  These are all elements of efficiency as practiced by some of the country’s best EMS systems, and you are part of making sure that Virginia Beach EMS is in that club.

Next week I hope to get back to the Sterile Cockpit concept.  If you want to read ahead, it’s described in the new radio Communications Manual, here:


Thanks for your dedication!

My photo
Division Chief Kevin Lipscomb, NRP
Regulation & Support Services
Va Beach EMS Department


Hits: 2