Tight Dispatch Cycle

Tight Dispatch Cycle

A message primarily to: Operations members

Tight Dispatch Cycle

Another key concept from the new radio Communications Manual

First, a brief recap

The main message from the last article in this series was that we want all on-air personnel to have a mental Common Operating Picture of how calls are being handled, and you can make this happen by doing the following:

  • Say where you’re Enroute from (while also marking Enroute on the MDT).
  • Say where you’re Available from (after marking Available on the MDT).

ECCS (the 911 center) officially supports this, although it’s a big change for them too, and they’re still adjusting.

And now for something completely different:  the Dispatch Cycle

The “dispatch cycle” begins when a call is initially dispatched, and ends when all assigned units have marked Enroute.  The length of this cycle should be kept to a minimum.  The more time that elapses, the longer on-air personnel are deprived of a Common Operating Picture, and the less efficient the system may become.

Unfortunately, we’ve developed a habit of tolerating the following pattern, which we’ll call a Loose Dispatch Cycle:

Ambulance 320, Cardiac, 123 Mulberry Street, Priority 1, time 12:34
Virginia Beach to Ambulance 320?
Virginia Beach to Ambulance 320?
Virginia Beach to Ambulance 320?
Virginia Beach to Ambulance 320, did you copy your call?

In this example, until 320 confirms that they’re responding, the dispatcher, the field supervisors, and others are all deprived of the following information:

  • Does 320 know they have a call?
  • Is 320 still staffed?
  • Where are they responding from?
  • Should we be sending another unit in their place?
  • By the time they mark responding, are they still the closest unit?

In the 911 setting, this is inefficient, it can lead to poor customer service, and it can degrade patient care.  And the long waits are inconsiderate to the dispatchers — they have many better things to do than keeping track of units that got dispatched two minutes ago and haven’t answered up.

Another big change

To fix the problems caused by a Loose Dispatch Cycle, we are adopting the following new definition and goal:

Definition:  Enroute in our system is defined as heading toward the call regardless of the manner of movement.

Goal:  Announce that you are Enroute promptly after the initial dispatch is complete.  Also mark Enroute on the MDT as soon as possible.

It is not necessary to wait for any of the following:

  • you have paid for your meal
  • you are in your vehicle
  • your motor has started
  • the garage door has opened
  • the wheels are turning
  • your MDT has booted up

Instead, we would rather you mark Enroute (and say your location) the moment you take a step away from your seat or bed toward your vehicle.

We hope we’ll end up with a Tight Dispatch Cycle, like this:

Dispatcher:  Ambulance 320, Unconscious, 456 Sycamore Street, Priority 1, time 23:45
Ambulance 320:  Ambulance 320 Enroute from Leigh

Occasionally, the combination of a Tight Dispatch Cycle and a Common Operating Picture will allow the following to happen very quickly:

Ambulance 522:  Ambulance 522, Virginia Beach, we’re Available on a refusal two blocks away from Sycamore Street, we’ll pick it up.
Dispatcher:  Ambulance 522, respond.  Ambulance 320, you can cancel.
Ambulance 320:  Ambulance 320, Available at Station 3.

Fast, short, and sweet.  If it were your family member unconscious on Sycamore Street, would you want the responding crew to keep the dispatch cycle Loose or Tight?

All members are encouraged to start using the Tight Dispatch Cycle right away.

Next up

The next article in this series will cover the concept of the Sterile Cockpit.  You can read ahead about it here:


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


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