Here’s what you need to know about emergency dispatch’s new COVID-19 assessment tool

Local News

Courtesy: Priority Dispatch

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) — A new tool manufactured by a local software company will help emergency communication centers by reducing the number of calls they receive and leading callers who potentially have COVID-19 to the correct resources.

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The COVID-19 Tracking and Triage tool or CATT helps potentially infected people determine whether an emergency call is necessary, according to Josh McFaddon, Communication Manager at International Academies of Emergency Dispatch.

Courtesy: Priority Dispatch

“This will help relieve burdens from emergency dispatchers, EMS professionals, and health care workers,” he said.

According to Brian Dale, Associate Director of Medical Control and Quality Processes at International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, 911 has seen an increase in phone calls about COVID-19.

“The data we are seeing from our clients has indicated an increase in the call types associated with COVID type symptoms – sick person, respiratory concerns, even the ‘worried well’ – calls that wouldn’t normally come to 911, even during a flu season, but the pandemic has many citizens worried and reaching out for assistance,” Dale said.

Have questions about coronavirus?

According to Dale, the goal of the tool is to direct callers with COVID-19 concerns to the appropriate resources rather than overburden the emergency system with calls.

“We understand the individual’s concern or need for help, but there are better ways to get that information. As this pandemic reaches its peak in each community, we hope to give the citizens relevant, effective information, allowing the 911 Emergency Dispatchers and responders to focus on those calls for service that are immediately emergent,” he said.

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For example, Dale said if someone has the virus but is not currently experiencing life-threatening symptoms, the best option is to isolate at home- not call 9-1-1.

However, Dale said CATT will only be used in the Salt Lake City area if emergency dispatch feels that dispatchers and emergency responders will be overrun and bogged down with work.

The tool is already being used in a number of cities nationwide. Currently, emergency dispatchers in Salt Lake City use something called the EIDS tool, which allows them to enter information about the caller’s health. The tool then uses current protocol to direct them how to help the caller.

How does the CATT tool work?

The tool is a web-based application powered by an Artificial Intelligence engine and is based on IAED’s 40 years of emergency protocol knowledge. It is intended for those deciding whether or not to call 9-1-1 with a coronavirus-related concern and to provide specific information to address each person’s unique situation and concerns.

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CATT gathers information as the person fills out the assessment questions. They can be directed to ten different end points depending on how they answer the assessment’s questions. Each end point includes sites, information, and phone numbers for the assessment- taker to reach out to. The idea is that these resources can more appropriately address the person’s concerns than a call to 9-1-1.

If the assessment-taker is exhibiting emergency symptoms, the assessment will direct them to an endpoint of calling 9-1-1.

Finally, CATT will send an email or text to the person at a specific time after they’ve finished the assessment to check if they’ve followed the instructions, if they are feeling better, staying the same, or getting worse since using the tool. Agencies will use this information to identify how many people are improving healthwise over time.

How does it track the virus?

CATT does not track the user, but does track symptoms, but does track reported symptoms and trends.

If assessment-takers choose to proivde a zip code, the information they provide can be viewed by public health agencies to evaluate which areas within the community have more sick persons, allowing them to provide more resources to those areas to flatten the curve.

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