Why Not The PPDS? Part 2

Cynthia Murray

Cynthia Murray


Editor's Note: Click here to read part 1.

Veteran Emergency Dispatchers may value both their freedom and control to handle the varying nature of police calls. Yet the Police Priority Dispatch System (PPDS®) is full of potentially overlooked benefits. This final portion of our PPDS series addresses more common questions regarding the effects of implementing the PPDS in terms of interacting with responders and the community, training, and providing caller instructions.

How will implementing the PPDS affect our interactions with responders and the community?

Caitlyn Welch, Quality Assurance Officer and Training Coordinator for Manatee County Sheriff’s Office (Florida, USA), said: “Once our center overcame the initial pushback, the dispatchers could appreciate that the PPDS simplified their responsibilities.” Manatee Emergency Dispatchers no longer had to worry about whether they had neglected to gather important information. Using the Police Protocol correctly covered potential gaps in liability in a field where risk is substantial.

Leighann Schultz is a Training/QA Coordinator at Cobb County 911 (Georgia, USA), which is the second largest PSAP in the state of Georgia with a diverse population and wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds. “My biggest advantage to using the PPDS is consistency,” Schultz said. “It doesn’t matter who the caller is or what area they live in, they can expect the same treatment. It removes potential claims of discrimination, such as, ‘Do you ask everyone with a missing vehicle if they are current on their payments, or just me?’ The beauty of the protocol is every dispatcher asks the same questions for the same scenarios, every time.”

The Police Protocol questions are structured to help callers focus, putting the EPD in control of the call. Yet some Emergency Dispatchers are unsure of that control. “EPDs may be tempted to skip ahead to safety questions because they say, ‘My guy is out there,’” Schultz said. “What they neglect to realize is that as dispatchers, they are human. They vary. They respond emotionally. They forget. But the protocol will always ask what you need it to ask.”

Responder interactions
The EPD’s consistent, effective methods for collecting and sending data provide responders with preparation and protection. In fact, recent updates to PPDS v7.0 (released in 2022) added more specific code assignments to give responders a clearer picture of what is happening on the scene.

“Now the deputies have an expectation,” Welch said. “They anticipate which information will be given and in which order.”

Dave Warner, International Academies of Emergency Dispatch® (IAED) Police Protocol, Academics, and Standards Expert, described another overlooked benefit of the PPDS: ProQA’s direct link to CAD, which automatically displays all caller interrogation information to responders, not relying on whether the Emergency Dispatcher feels it is relevant for the responder. “There have been countless real-life scenarios where an Emergency Dispatcher failed to provide essential information to responders, placing them at greater risk,” Warner said. “Using ProQA® eliminates this problem.”  

Community interactions
When developing trust with the public, customer service is another priority. There are two main elements of the Police Protocol that help create a more focused, seamless caller experience: a streamlined interrogation (Jurisdictionally Approved Questions and Instructions) and the EPD’s ability to enter an answer and bypass a Key Question when the caller has already provided information.

Welch shared an example of how an EPD can efficiently handle a common loud noise complaint without asking any questions: “The caller reports, ‘I live at 123 Main Street. I’m calling about my neighbor at 124 Main Street playing loud music out of their car. It’s booming, and I can’t sleep.’ The EPD enters and verifies the address, chooses the appropriate Chief Complaint Protocol (113), bypasses inapplicable questions, enters known information, selects the appropriate Determinant Code (113-B-2) ‘Other noise complaint,’ provides appropriate PDIs to ‘Call us back if the noise stops,’ and routinely disconnects. That’s one smooth interrogation.”

How will implementing the PPDS affect the training of our personnel?

Just as protocols provide a structure for call processing, implementing the PPDS creates a clear pathway for training new Emergency Dispatchers.

“I imagine agencies that dispatch for all three disciplines get tired of saying, ‘Here’s the structured medical and fire protocols, but for police, we just have a ragtag bag of questions we hope you’ll remember,’” Schultz said. The PPDS trainee’s process is to determine the nature of the situation (police, fire, or medical) and focus on Chief Complaint Selection, following the guided protocol structure from there.

KarDasaty Davis, Emergency Telecommunicator Supervisor at Marion County Public Safety Communications (Florida, USA), said, “Implementing the PPDS has helped tremendously with effectively training staff. The PPDS helps reduce some of the trainees’ stress because it ensures pertinent information will be obtained if the questions are asked, regardless of experience level.”

A lot of the new trainees come from a younger generation who love technology, and they’re comfortable with it, but the responsibility of lives on the line is heavy.

“When we teach about liability and share real scenarios where dispatchers have dropped the ball, we follow with teaching the Police Protocol to ease their worry,” Welch said. “Once you understand the Chief Complaint Selection Rules, everything is laid out for you.” Without having to rely on memory, the PPDS reduces potential for human error.

Weeks of scenario practice turns into confidence at the console for new trainees who know how to navigate ProQA software and understand the Police Protocol. After running scripted and real recordings and reviewing each scenario, it's just a matter of applying these processes live.

Of course, part of EPD training focuses on customer service, establishing human connections, and responding to the emotional state of the caller. “If the caller has hit the hysteria threshold, using the Police Protocol’s structure can help bring them back down,” Welch said.

What types of caller instructions does the PPDS provide?

The PPDS offers several Pre-Arrival Instructions (PAIs) to enable swift action in high-acuity situations before responders arrive: Accelerator Stuck & Can’t Stop Vehicle, Active Assailant (Shooter), Sinking Vehicle/Vehicle in Floodwater (Caller Inside), Hostage/Bomb/Suspicious Package, and Caller In Danger. Control Bleeding and Burn treatment are also accessible, and v7.0 provides new instructions for Tourniquet application and Person Trapped in Vehicle Trunk.

Version 7.0 also contains over 75 unique Post-Dispatch Instructions (PDIs). Nearly half of these are designated as Jurisdictionally Approved Instructions (turned on or off locally). In addition to sending out officers, the EPD can provide these instructions to help patients on scene in multifaceted ways.

PDIs and Case Exit Instructions (CEIs) provide an opportunity to leave the caller with a calm focus as they await responders. “If you give callers something to do when they’re worried, they can focus on a task instead of escalating their panic,” Welch explained. For instance, in the case of a missing child (P123), the EPD may instruct the caller to find a recent photograph of the child, to write down his or her phone number to give to responding officers, and to search likely places.

Additionally, these scripted instructions provide an authoritative way to end the call. “PDIs and CEIs help us conduct ourselves professionally and confidently even when handling common calls, which builds trust in the public that we are prepared,” Schultz said.

There are benefits on the journey toward PPDS implementation: structured, simplified call processing; liability and discrimination coverage; controlled consistency for callers; efficient communication with responders; confidence for new EPD trainees; and authoritative provision of caller instructions. Why not take the steps to create an extensive impact on your EPDs, your agency, your responders, and your community?