Encourage Understanding

Jonny McMullan

Guest Writer


There has never been a time in the history of emergency call processing when EMDs have experienced more interest in how we do what we do. The number of stakeholders, within and outside of our agencies, displaying an interest in MPDS® is constantly growing whether that’s from our public, colleagues in health services, clinicians within our call centers, responders, data analytics, etc. So why does this matter and what can we do as EMDs to help others understand the MPDS?


As an IAED™ EMD Mentor Instructor I have visited agencies across the U.K. and Ireland, and EMDs regularly share experiences of questions they face daily from inside and outside of the call center:

“Why are you staying on the line … there are calls waiting.”

“How has that call coded at that level?”

“What takes you so long to process a call or find a location?” 

“Why do you need to ask me all these questions?”


It is so easy in the face of these constant questions, from a list of sources seemingly only interested in a single detail or individual element of MPDS, for us to become frustrated or defensive in our response. Call volume and caller expectations are at levels never experienced before, and EMDs have less downtime between calls. The thought of having a few moments of quiet interrupted by questions that do not instantly appear important can add to the stressful dispatch environment.

As EMDs we also get comfortable with being the person who asks not answers questions, and queries directed toward us can often seem far removed from our standard role as interrogator. Equally, we can become so focused on our duties as an EMD and our position within our control center team, that any question or interest from outside of that sphere can appear invasive and unnecessarily critical from someone who “simply does not understand our job.”

How then, and indeed why, should EMDs attempt to answer these questions and queries in a positive manner, and what will the potential benefit be to us individually and collectively? Well first it is important to understand why the questions are being asked and then to interpret them accurately.

Take one of the questions mentioned previously as an example: “What takes you so long to process a call or find a location?” An EMD can often interpret this question as a criticism, especially from a member of staff outside of our call room. What we hear is, “Can you not do this more quickly?” and what we infer is a challenge to our competency.

However, what if that question was interpreted as, “Why can the system not be more helpful when finding a location?” and the reason for the question is to find ways to improve the technology we use every day? Taking a second to understand the rationale for the query, and why an individual might want to ask it in the first place, may allow us to answer in a way that is beneficial to us and our patients.

The irony here, and the learning for us as EMDs, is centred around the qualities we often desire from our callers. We want them to listen carefully to questions, understand what the request means, and respond in the most appropriate way to solve a problem or provide help.

Imagine a scenario where questions about EMDs and MPDS were welcomed as an opportunity to educate as many people as possible about what we do and how we do it and answered in a way that improves the way we work and the standard of care delivered to our patients. Maybe we should encourage as many people as possible to learn about MPDS and our job role and we would have fewer questions to answer and more understanding when we do!