ASAP Isn’t Fast Enough For Baby Delivery

Isaac Lavigne

Your Space

Delivering a healthy baby girl through instructions provided over the phone? No problem. 

“The baby call was textbook,” said Isaac Lavigne, EMD/EFD, Polk County Sheriff’s Office Emergency Communications Center (ECC), Winter Haven, Florida (USA). “Everything about the call presented exactly how it follows in Protocol ... The father made the call and positioned the mother according to PAIs. The mother did the talking."

Lavigne listened to her voice in labor, allowing a pause in PAIs during waves of contractions. “The parents were remarkable,” he said. Lavigne used the childbirth protocol for the first time. “It was a great experience for me.”

A 911 caller distraught because her husband is not breathing is certainly more drastic than a fast-food order missing a bag of fries, and that’s where Lavigne’s talent shines. “Tensions are high, and I expect a caller to be having a bad day during an emergency situation,” he said. “There is something out of the ordinary happening. They’re at a loss. They don’t know what to do, and they’re depending on you to help.”

Lavigne never raises his voice and, instead, speaks in a soft tone that calms and reassures the caller. PAIs are a great tool for keeping the caller occupied; it gives them something to do. “They pay attention. They are trying to follow what you are saying.”

That may be easy to say for a veteran emergency dispatcher—not so for Lavigne. He hadn’t been under the headset for long. He was still in training, covering a 12-hour day shift at the time three months shy of his release date to answer fire/EMS 911 calls independently without a trainer. 

You wouldn’t guess his short-term status when talking to him about emergency communications though. Lavigne’s been around this type of profession most of his life. He is the son of Broward Sheriff’s Office (Florida) Reserve Deputy Rich Lavigne who has more than 20 years of full-time experience with the United States Coast Guard in maritime operations. “He’s always been the one dispatched,” Lavigne said.

While the younger Lavigne went a different direction straight out of high school, he learned valuable skills in customer service, handling every assignment except cooking at a few fast-food restaurants. The setting was ideal for his future vocation. In both, he said, “you’re managing the expectations of people. You are the voice in their head and whatever they’re asking for, they want it fast.” 

Be it a hamburger and double order of fries or an ambulance, people demand action, Lavigne explained. Short staffing in fast food during COVID-19 resulted in longer waits and the higher likelihood of tempers flaring over delays at the drive-thru window. Apply the same analogy in a medical or fire emergency, and callers get testy. They’re scared. They want help. They don’t want to answer questions or wait for what might seem like forever for responders to arrive.

Lavigne’s focus on customer service extends beyond the caller. If harsh words come over the phone, he is glad to be the cushion for responders. “I would rather have the people irate with me than the paramedics. The responders are safer when the caller is calm enough to be attentive when the paramedics arrive.”

Lavigne describes emergency dispatch as the flow of customer service. A break in communications can throw the entire situation off course, he said, and his responsibility is keeping all sides on track. He finds the Protocol intuitive. “I’m never lost for words.”

He never expects a call to go perfectly and uses each call as part of the learning process. Completing the final courses in his bachelor’s degree is the next step in his emergency communications career (aside from emergency dispatch training).

“I can’t imagine doing much else,” Lavigne said. “If I can make someone smile during their emergency, I know I’m there. It’s nice to know you’ve put that caller first and foremost.”