City of New Bern changing way dispatchers respond to 911 calls

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — The city of New Bern is changing the way dispatchers respond to 911 calls as part of a new emergency medical dispatch program.

The program, which started a month ago, trains dispatchers to help before medics reach the patient.

“EMD dispatchers are the first first responders now,” said Sam Shulaw, an EMD dispatcher for the New Bern Police Department.

He changes the lives of others one phone call at a time.

“This is a whole new world,” said Shulaw. “It’s really helping people when seconds matter.”

Instead of picking up and simply sending an ambulance like before, telecommunicators now answer questions, calm people down and walk callers through step-by-step instructions while EMS is en route.

“For example, if you were to call in and say that your loved one is not breathing, we can teach you, tell you over the phone how to do CPR to prolong a life until the paramedics arrive,” said Shulaw.

They have a booklet of possible situations, along with medical advice.

Shulaw has even helped deliver a baby over the phone.

EMS medical director Dr. Stanley Koontz signed off on all the medical instructions.

“We have a fantastic hospital, we have a fantastic EMS system, but at times, it may take time to get there because we are very busy,” said Koontz. “Now, with telecommunicators trained in emergency medical dispatch, they can help a lot sooner than they would normally get.”

Shulaw said he is happy to help.

“This isn’t just a job,” said Shulaw. “It’s a lifestyle for a lot of us trying to make a difference every day, and this is the best way to do it.”