New law requires 911 system to have over-the-phone CPR operators on staff
Rep. Mia Ackerman, left, and Sen. Maryellen Goodwin hold their newly signed bills requiring 911 operators to be trained in telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
STATE HOUSE — A new law introduced by House Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman (D-Dist. 45, Cumberland, Lincoln) and Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and signed by the governor today will improve over-the-phone CPR instructions by requiring the 911 system to certify and staff individuals trained in telecommunicator CPR.
The legislation (2021-H 5629, 2021-S 0385aa) establishes an emergency telephone system call review and quality improvement, and requires all 911 system operators to be trained in telecommunicator cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
“911 operators are the real first responders and can make the difference between life and death,” said Representative Ackerman. “When CPR starts before the arrival of an emergency medical technician, the person in cardiac arrest is two-to-three times more likely to survive. T-CPR can help untrained callers provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It can also remind those who are trained how to provide high-quality CPR.”
The bill was passed by the General Assembly June 22, and was ceremonially signed into law by Gov. Daniel McKee in a ceremony held today at the Cumberland Public Safety Complex.
The legislation comes in the wake of incidents where bystanders were unable to perform CPR, due to a lack of instructions from 911 dispatch. In 2018, Rena Fleury, a 45-year-old woman, died after she went into cardiac arrest at a Cumberland High School football game. The 911 call takers failed to recognize that Fleury was having a cardiac arrest, and they failed to provide CPR instructions over the phone.
“By training 911 operators in telecommunicator CPR, we save precious time by allowing a caller to begin lifesaving actions immediately, rather than have to wait for the arrival of rescue personnel,” said Senator Goodwin. “In addition, this legislation also establishes a comprehensive call review and quality improvement program.”
Each year an estimated 350,000 sudden cardiac arrest events occur in the United States in an out-of-hospital environment, according to the American Heart Association, which strongly endorses T-CPR-trained 911 operators. Almost all of these events result in a call for help to 911. Without quick intervention in the form of CPR and defibrillation, death becomes more likely.
“Implementing a policy where operators trained in T-CPR are always on duty could save countless lives,” said Representative Ackerman. “Emergency telecommunicators are a vital link in the lifesaving chain, and this legislation will help to ensure that CPR is being performed before emergency medical personnel arrive.”