911 Communication challenges exists for Pafford EMS

Pafford EMS is

By Malcolm Butler

One aspect of the on-going research into how Lincoln Parish will handle emergency and rescue operations outside of the Ruston city limits starting January 1 has to do with concerns over Pafford EMS’s ability to process 911 information.

Although a contract has not been signed between the Lincoln Parish Police Jury and Pafford EMS, unless an 11th-hour solution presents itself, the trajectory is heading towards that being the solution for emergency situations outside the city limits but within the parish lines.

When the LPPJ voted 6-3 against the City of Ruston’s proposal during its July meeting, all eyes turned towards what was next. Enter Pafford EMS and the Lincoln Parish Fire District. 

During Friday’s LPPJ Ambulance Committee meeting, Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff MIke Rainwater provided a report on the 911 communications portion of the ever-evolving game-plan.

And the news didn’t come without some possible obstacles. 

“I found out that (Pafford EMS is) not capable of accepting ANI/ALI information,” said Rainwater during his report. “The only option is using a ring down line.”

So what does that mean?

Currently when a landline or cell phone makes a call to 911, the 911 responder instantly obtains critical traced information through the call, including telephone number of caller and location of call. Even a cell phone call can be traced to within feet of the caller’s location. Public safety professionals refer to this information as ANI/ALI.

So what does this mean for the potential future plans for handling emergency calls outside of the city limits? According to Rainwater, the obstacle presents communication concerns when it comes to possible response time.

When a 911 call is received for a medical emergency, the ANI/ALI information is almost instantly transferred to the City of Ruston emergency and rescue operator, making the dispatch time almost immediate.

However, with Pafford EMS’s current inability to receive the ANI/ALI information, it would have to utilize a ring down line. This process has numerous potential pitfalls, including longer dispatch time which equates to a longer total response times and the potential to lose a call and not have the exact location or call back number regardless of whether the call comes into to 911 or an administrative line.

“About 60 percent of the emergency calls (in our parish) are made to 911,” said Rainwater. “But the otehr 40 percent come into our administrative line. Moving forward (starting January 1) this could cause more potential issues.”

Rainwater explained that any call that comes into the administrative line isn’t tagged with ANI/ALI information. The Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office can transfer the call to Pafford EMS but they won’t be able to stay on the line once the call is transferred, which is a concern according to Rainwater.

The LPSO and RPD are the only two public safety answering points (PSAP) within our parish. A cell phone call could be answered by either PSAP depending upon which cell tower the cell phone connects to. 

Calls to 911 work differently as the 911 operator is able to transfer the call while staying on the line at the same time.

“It works like a three-way call,” said Rainwater. “Many times in an emergency, the caller is in panic mode. As soon as they tell you their name and the address, they instantly drop the phone or hang up. Any call that comes through the administrative line as opposed to 911, if the caller doesn’t stay on the line then we don’t have the ANI/ALI info to access. Only the caller ID information is available.”

Another twist to the situation has to do with street names. 

“Almost every town within the parish seems to have a 1st street or a Pecan Street or many of the same basic names,” said Rainwater. 

Thus if a caller says ‘This is John Doe, and I’m located at 411 1st Street’ and then the caller hangs up or the call drops, it’s extremely difficult to know exactly which 1st Street the caller is referring to within Lincoln Parish without the ANI/ALI information. The ANI/ALI information is critical to knowing exactly where the caller is located. 

In Rainwater’s discussions with Pafford EMS administrators, Pafford EMS representatives said they have been and continue to be looking into trying to upgrade its system to be able to receive 911 calls, thus receiving the critical ANI/ALI information. Rainwater guesstimates the cost would be somewhere around $500,000. 

“I would suggest that ANI/ALI information be left in the contract because ideally that is the best case scenario,” said Rainwater in his report Friday. “They have expressed that they are seeking to be in a position to get ANI/ALI information. However, with Pafford EMS being a private company and not being an (Public Safety Answering Point) that’s a very difficult process. So I’m not sure what the time-frame would be.”

The next Lincoln Parish Police Jury Ambulance Committee Meeting is scheduled for Sept. 8 at 9 a.m. at the Lincoln Parish Library.