Lisa Riccio Nickel

Story Vault

By Lisa Riccio Nickel

Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center (S.C.) calltaker Jon Lewis was acquainted with ways to use the “tapping” method on an open line 9-1-1 call, but it wasn’t until such a call came in that he was put to the test.

Much to Lewis’ surprise, at 8:06 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 10, he received a 9-1-1 call from a wireless phone, and the caller was unable to speak. Lewis relied on his training and quickly began helping the caller by asking a series of questions relying solely on the caller to respond by tapping on the phone.

Thinking outside the box, Lewis asked questions such as “Are you in a building?” and instructed the caller to “Tap when you hear the first letter of the business you are near,” allowing the caller to provide more detailed information to narrow down his location.

With the help of the Phase II wireless GPS location as well as asking pointed yes or no questions, dispatchers were able to guide emergency responders to the location of the patient where he was found in a tree-lined ditch near a Wells Fargo Bank.

Upon their arrival, EMS found the patient with no obvious injuries; however, he had an altered mental status. The patient, who was not critical, was non-verbal for the EMS crew, and his chief complaint was undetermined until they arrived at the hospital.

Lewis credits his recent experience in tapping to locate the patient with the ongoing in-service training he receives (the method is taught during a Charleston County telecommunicator’s initial training session and then periodically reviewed during quarterly in-service training), the accuracy of the GPS, and the assistance of the dispatcher transmitting questions to him to aid in the process of the call. He and calltaker Desiree Porcher had even discussed the strategy just days before the incident occurred.

Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center is the hub for all public safety communications in Charleston County. The center is accredited through the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch for medical and fire and dispatches for 12 fire departments, 2 rescue squads, Charleston County EMS, and 6 law enforcement agencies. With a multijurisdictional area of over 900 square miles of land and 440 square miles of water, the average yearly call volume is 1.3 million and average yearly incident volume is 620,000.