Upbringing Prepared EMD For Life’s Emergencies

Audrey Fraizer

Audrey Fraizer

Dispatch in Action

There are lots of good things to be said about being reared on a farm, particularly when livestock is involved and a future career careens into a medical profession.

“I hadn’t thought about it much before,” said EMD Teresa “Terri” Nielsen when asked how she responds so well to callers experiencing a medical crisis. “I grew up in an agricultural way. It was very rural where we lived. I know how to stop the bleeding.”

Nielsen’s also proficient in birth and delivery assistance. As an EMD she’s answered nine calls in that context during her 13 years at CONFIRE Communications, in San Bernardino County, California (USA). The center provides regional fire, rescue, and EMS; resource coordination; and technology services to the Southern California county that at 20,105 square miles is more than twice the total area of New Hampshire (9,350 square miles).

San Bernardino County offers a startling range of topography—desert, mountains, lakes—and a population is close to surpassing 2.5 million people. Over the past 20 years, 55 disasters have been declared by the county, most of which were related to fire incidents.1 On March 2, 2023, California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency for San Bernardino County and 12 other counties after more than 100 inches of snow fell in the San Bernardino Mountains, adding to snowfall that had already shut down power and stranded people in their homes.

“The mountains are inaccessible,” said Nielsen on the day the snow emergency was called. “People can’t get out. They’re trapped in their homes. Roads are closed. We've been sending snowcats to check on people and rescue them.”

It’s no wonder Nielsen prefers to talk about the good news of babies in her business. Much of what she handles is not what she wants to talk about.

“Baby delivery is the best part of my job; it just makes it a great day,” she said.

Nielsen’s most recent delivery of over-the-phone childbirth PAIs was on Jan. 2 when she answered a 911 call coming in from Rancho Cucamonga during the early evening hours. The mom was in labor one month prior to her due date and although unsure birth was imminent, Nielsen instructed the caller—the mom’s mom—to have her daughter lie down. Grandma checked the progress. The baby wasn’t crowning. The baby was upside down.

Paramedics arrived within six minutes and took charge of the breech birth. Nielsen had stayed on the phone with the women prior to the delivery. “Grandma was in mom mode. She told her daughter to do as they were told to do.” Grandma and mom called Nielsen a couple days later. All was well. The baby was in the NICU for observation.

Nielsen then paused for a moment. “It’s amazing what moms will do for their babies.”

Nielsen said a case in point is the woman who gave birth during a cold, rainy night in the back of a car wash. Workers opening the business that morning discovered the mom and baby and called 911. The baby was underneath the woman’s clothing, and she would not let anyone near her, Nielsen said. “She was doing all she could to protect that baby.” It took the paramedics’ reassurance to transport the baby and mom to the hospital.

Nielsen also readily recalls the first delivery PAIs provided a year into emergency dispatch. The baby, Riley, was born on the side of a highway thanks to Nielsen’s over-the-phone PAIs. Nielsen held her breath waiting to hear the baby’s cry. “It’s always such a relief to every EMD when that happens,” she said.

Emergency dispatch is a profession that Nielsen believes she was meant to do. She found something worthwhile from the get-go and goes home to her semirural setting knowing she has done her best for every caller.

“We get to be somebody’s hero every single day,” she said. “Who could ask for more? It’s the best.”


1 “San Bernardino County, California: Environmental and societal risk assessment.” Augurisk. https://www.augurisk.com/risk/state/california/san-bernardino-county/06071 (accessed March 2, 2023).