Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer


By Audrey Fraizer

Picture this for your evening out in Lower Austria:

Leave your hotel for a drive to the restored 900-year-old abbey at Melk, a Benedictine monastery beaming over the Danube Valley and considered one of Europe’s greatest sights. Accept a glass of champagne or a non-alcoholic beverage when you board a boat for a leisurely cruise down the Danube River through the Wachau Valley to the town of Krems. The day fading into night pulls a shade over the vineyards although soft electric lighting from castles and villages illuminates the sky and shore, enhancing the history and known beauty of the countryside. Austrian music plays discreetly in the background.

As your trip draws to a close, you are surprised by a bold show of fireworks streaming above the boat, the flash of color reflecting in the Danube River’s evening darkness. You take the napkin from your lap and set it over the plate that held servings from the Austrian-style food buffet. You depart from the boat with the past four hours forever etched in your memory but not without shaking the hands of dignitaries accompanying you on the cruise.

Does it get any better?

Well, that depends.

For the 160 emergency center professionals attending Euro NAVIGATOR, the cruise was a great indicator of things to come.

The opening of the sixth annual Euro NAVIGATOR conference heralded 23 sessions, Medical and Fire Instructor Recertification Workshops, and a police leadership seminar. It was the largest Euro NAVIGATOR to date, quadrupling in size from the 40 people who attended the inaugural conference in 2008.

As the numbers grow, so does the enthusiasm, according to Tudy Benson, IAED™ director of European operations.

“The rooms are always packed at Euro NAVIGATOR,” she said. “It’s amazing. There are no empty seats and during the breaks, there’s a ton of networking.”

The “passion for protocol” doesn’t stop in the classroom.

Euro NAVIGATOR also celebrates the achievement of centers processing calls and sending response using the MPDS and FPDS—PPDS is now being introduced—and honors front-line staff through the Dispatcher of the Year Award.

For example, the boat cruise not only signaled the start of Euro NAVIGATOR but it also celebrated the 10th anniversary of 144 Notruf NÖ. The accredited and reaccredited Center of Excellence played host to the cruise, featuring opening remarks by Jerry Overton, chair, IAED Emergency Clinical Advice System Program, and Lower Austria Governor Erwin Pröll.

“The governor spoke highly about the importance of protocol,” Benson said. “He is proud of what 144 Notruf NÖ is doing for the population of Lower Austria.”

The Dispatcher of the Year Award went to Daniel Wegscheider, of Leitstelle Tirol, Austria. Wegscheider is an EMD, EFD, and EFD-Q certified instructor. Wegscheider started as a calltaker with Tyrol Leitstelle in May 2003.

“Daniel practices what he preaches,” Benson said. “Literally. He follows the protocol verbatim and his voice was calm and collected during the call submitted with his nomination as he assisted in the delivery of a baby.”

Leitstelle Tirol was established through an agreement signed in September 2004 between the Tyrol Center and the city of Innsbruck. Leitstelle Tirol dispatches all Tyrolean emergency services (except for police) in northern and eastern Tyrol.

European flair

Euro NAVIGATOR is unique among the IAED’s conferences, of which there are now eight including U.S. NAVIGATOR. Sessions are divided into blocks, and the accepted proposals are clustered around common topics and areas of interest. Four sessions moderated by two chairs are scheduled per block, and each block—lasting about 80 minutes and held in the same room—leaves time for discussion between the speakers.

The final program blocks mirror the interests of protocol research and noted comments from the prior year’s conference. The recent conference, held Sept. 11–13 in St. Pölten, Austria, highlighted management of staff, protocol, and the universally hot topic of stress. A four-session block on the second day delved into the FPDS, which is picking up steam in the European countries.

A free (open floor) presentation scheduled on the final day allows time for topics regarding concerns related to protocol or center operations.

Behind the picture

Austrian EMS Provider Gernot Vergeiner and Benson organized the structure three years ago based on Vergeiner’s experience at the inter- and multi-disciplinary conferences he attends in Europe.

“The face-to-face exchanges and shorter time slots [compared to conferences familiar to most Americans] prove to be an effective way of engaging individuals and broadening the dialogue,” Vergeiner said. “Networking throughout the conference establishes the contacts with other countries and agencies.”

Vergeiner was an early proponent of the MPDS in Austria, building his argument for standardized protocol from the country’s ambulance man law of 2002, which created two tiers of ambulance response (rescue and emergency). Similar to the ambulance plan, he wanted a national standard for calltaking and dispatching.

In 2004, 144 Nortruf NÖ adopted the MPDS and since then, the protocol has expanded to a multitude of centers in several European countries, including Austria, Germany, and the Netherlands. New to the conference in 2013 were representatives from the country of Georgia, located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe. Georgia is a member of the Council of Europe.

Benson is pleased with the advance of protocol in Europe.

“The conference was a success,” she said. “We are certainly very happy with the way things are going.”