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Anatomy of a 911 Call

Dispatch record details the 3-hour delay in ambulance response

Last Updated: Feb. 12, 2013

CBC News obtained an internal record of the Toronto Emergency Medical Services response to the woman who died December 30th, after waiting more than 3 hours for help. The panels below explain a chronology of events preceding her death. (Images depicting call record on black and yellow screens are re-created representations of internal EMS record obtained by CBC News)

3:14 P.M. Woman's retirement residence calls 911. After the caller & dispatcher run through a series of triage questions, the call is ranked "alpha" - the least urgent level of emergency call. Toronto EMS aims to respond to these calls within 21 minutes.

3:31 P.M. The first ambulance is dispatched to the scene.

3:46 PM The ambulance is diverted to another call.

4:18 P.M. A second ambulance is dispatched

4:20 P.M. EMS calls the retirement residence back. The dispatcher notes "late response due to limited resources"

4:25 P.M. The second ambulance is diverted to another call.

4:31 P.M. More than an hour into her wait, the retirement home inquires: the woman is asking for something to help her cope with the pain. EMS advises "not to give anything at this time".

Between 5:13 and 6:00 P.M. another five ambulances are dispatched and diverted. In the table below, TRUCK refers to ambulances, 10-8 means the unit is en-route, 10-7 means the unit has arrived on scene, and "optima divert dispatch" refers to units being diverted to other calls.

TRUCK   10-8   10-7   DIVERTED   REASON
28213:31--3:46OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH
43574:18--4:25OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH
40225:13--5:22OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH
4046A5:26--5:3403-CLOSER UNIT
42405:35--5:44OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH
14995:47--5:56OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH
14995:58--6:00OPTIMA DIVERT DISPATCH

6:29 P.M. A call is registered with ambulance dispatch. The woman is "not breathing at all".

6:30 P.M. The woman is "VSA" - vital signs absent

6:31 P.M. The woman's 911 call is now rated an 'echo' level response, the most urgent. Fire and police services are notified. An ambulance arrives on scene in 5 minutes, but the woman is dead.

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