The Mississauga Central Ambulance Communications Centre (CACC) is the first step to providing the roughly 1.8 million citizens of Peel, Caledon and Halton with 911 emergency medical services. On average, the CACC receives over 300,000 calls per year. Approximately 180,000 of those are medical emergencies. This averages out to 490 emergency calls each and every day.The CACC is fully operational 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide the public access to the paramedic services. The ambulance communications officers (ACOs) work 12-hour shifts and spend months to years training to ensure they are ready for anything that may happen on the other end of the phone or radio. The people that answer the phones want to help you and will always be there to send you the help you need in a timely manner. As scary as it is to dial 911, please remember that you must try your best to remain calm so the call-taker can collect as much information as possible to give to the paramedics.
What happens when you call 911?
911 should be used for emergencies only. If you have a question or concern, you can call on the non-emergency lines. In Peel or Halton, when a person dials 911, they are connected to their local central emergency reporting bureau (CERB), which is the Peel or Halton Police communications center. The first thing you will be asked is if you require Police, Fire or Ambulance.If you need Fire or Ambulance you will be put on hold momentarily and transferred to your local dispatch center. If you need an ambulance you will be transferred to Mississauga CACC, where the person who answers will then begin asking you a series of questions, starting with your location information. If you are calling from a landline your phone number and address will automatically populate into the computer but the call-taker will still ask you to confirm the information they are seeing. If you are calling from a cell phone no address will populate on the computer but the call-taker will still see your phone number. If you call on the non-emergency lines the call-taker will also not see any of your location information including your phone number. Services like VOIP can also put you through to the CACC and they will usually be able to provide the call-taker with the address associated with the number you are calling from, but the call-taker will still be asking you to confirm the information given. The last thing any call-taker wants to do is send the ambulance to the wrong location.
Once the call-taker is satisfied with the location information they will move onto medical screening questions. Remember that the call-taker cannot see what is happening; you must be their eyes and give them whatever information they ask for. The questions the call-taker asks you will help determine the priority of the call and which level of care to send (Advanced Care or Primary Care Paramedics). Most centers have their own unique way of prioritizing calls for service. Calls are prioritized by code 1-4. Code 4 calls are real life-threatening emergencies. Examples of code 4 calls include difficulty breathing, chest pain, strokes or trauma calls. Code 3 calls are urgent calls but are non-life-threatening. Some examples of code 3 calls include small fractures (i.e., hand fractures), falls with no to minimal injuries, or flu-like symptoms. The CACC also takes code 2 and code 1 transfer calls. These calls are usually transfers between hospitals or from a residence to a hospital for an appointment. When you call to book one of these with the CACC, keep in mind they will be servicing the emergency calls first, despite you having a specific appointment time. These lower priority calls can be delayed until all emergency calls have been dispatched.
Certain types of calls, such as motor vehicle collisions or cardiac arrests, warrant a response from all of the emergency services (Police, Fire and Ambulance). The call-taker will determine if one of the allied agencies is required and will tier them immediately if they are needed.
Once the call-taker has enough information regarding your location and the priority of the request for service, the call is dropped into the waiting incidents queue and is routed to the appropriate dispatcher. Mississauga CACC currently has 5 dispatch desks (4 Peel and 1 Halton). For the Region of Peel the desks are the South West, South East, North West and North East. Each dispatch desk is equipped with 6-7 computer monitors so the dispatcher has the ability to track the ambulances through every stage of their calls, including emergency coverage. The dispatcher is responsible for sending the closest most appropriate ambulance resource, ensuring there is balanced emergency coverage (i.e., ambulances spread out evenly throughout the region), tracking meal-breaks and assisting the paramedics with whatever they may ask for while on a call (e.g., a second ambulance, call-backs to the scene or sending an allied agency). The dispatchers will track an ambulance through each stage of the call and will monitor times for the paramedic crews.
While the call-taker is still on the phone with the caller, the dispatcher will be starting the ambulance. Speaking to the call-taker will never cause any sort of delay in getting you the help you or anyone else needs. When the call-taker is done collecting information they will give you first-aid instructions to help the person until the paramedics arrive. Depending on the situation, the call-taker may stay on the phone with you until one of the emergency services arrives on scene.
Once the paramedics have off-loaded their patient at the hospital they will call into the dispatch center and clear up their call.This can be done by the dispatcher or any call-takers in the room. Often times the call-taker will have to put the paramedics on hold to answer emergency calls (sometimes multiple times depending on the current call volume).
At the end of the day the CACC is equipped to help you with any type of medical emergency until the paramedics arrive. The call-takers and dispatchers work long, hard hours to help keep the public and the paramedics safe. Working at Mississauga CACC is more than just a job for the staff. They come into work daily, leave their personal lives and issues at the door, and are ready to help you during your worst moment ever. They may not see what is happening in front of you, or what the paramedics may see, but when they hear your cries for help they are right there with you. Too often the call-taker and dispatcher do not get to know the outcome of the people they try to help. When they hang up their headsets at the end of the shift they will remember the good and the bad calls from their day. But that won't stop them from coming in tomorrow for another shift.