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AFR Launches Priority Dispatch Approach

Aurora Fire Rescue right-sizes its approach to medical 911 calls
Posted on 10/25/2023
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Partnering with Aurora911 and Falck Rocky Mountain, Aurora Fire Rescue today began a tiered response approach to how resources are dispatched for emergency medical calls. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, medical calls into Aurora911 are now dispatched according to the acuity of the incident.

According to Aurora911, non-urgent and less-severe incidents account for nearly 25 percent of medical dispatch volume in Aurora today. Under the new “Right Response” model, the most appropriate resources will be deployed based on the urgency and severity of the event.

“The historical approach to sending AFR units lights and sirens to incidents that aren’t urgent or critical in nature puts the safety of the community and our members at risk. In many ways, these responses create more risk than they mitigate” said AFR Fire Chief Alec Oughton. “Referring non-urgent and less-severe calls to nurses or deploying only ambulances better positions AFR crews to respond where they’re needed most – on urgent, critical calls when every minute matters.”

The implementation of the Right Response approach coincides with the one-year anniversary of the Aurora911 Nurse Navigation program. Through that program, dispatcher-triaged 911 callers with non-emergent injuries or illnesses are routed to a Colorado State Licensed nurse for assessment, then referred to the most appropriate medical care. Since October 2022, more than 1,600 low-acuity medical calls have been referred to the Nurse Navigation program. Nearly 25 percent of those calls resulted in self-care at home, and 11 percent received alternative care, such as telehealth, urgent care, health care home visits and clinic visits.

Following that same concept of alternative dispositions for low-acuity calls, additional protocols have been added for resource deployment based on the nature and acuity of the incident. The protocols range from referrals to the Nurse Navigator program, dispatching Falck Basic Life Support units with Emergency Medical Technicians on board, and all the way up to the current practice of dispatching both Falck Advanced Life Support and AFR paramedic crews to the scene.

Viewed as a best practice in emergency medical systems, this model follows internationally recognized standards for giving universal, consistent care and service to every caller and safely prioritizing calls for appropriate and fast response. The approach has been effectively utilized in communities like Aurora for more than two decades.

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