YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Youngstown city police officers will now answer medical calls if an ambulance or the fire department is not available.
Capt. Kevin Mercer, who is in charge of the city’s 911 Center, said the change comes after a recent 911 call where a woman said her father was having a heart attack and yet an ambulance could not respond because none were available.
Mercer said while the woman was on the line with the ambulance company, the phone disconnected so she called 911 again and was frustrated no one could help her.
The fire department also was not available and police were not sent so the caller told dispatchers she was taking her father to the hospital herself.
Mercer said he did not know the outcome of the call, but he added that he believes people who call 911 should get some kind of help. He said police officers do receive basic first aid training when they go to the police academy and can perform such tasks as CPR and chest compressions.
“We will do whatever we can, even if that means we have to use the cruiser to take them to the hospital,” Mercer said.
The department is short several officers on patrol because several patrol officers have left for other departments because of higher starting pay. Because of that, sometimes calls get backed up. Mercer said that medical calls will be prioritized so that if someone has a life-threatening emergency, that call will take priority.
Someone with a lower-level medical emergency will still have an officer respond, but that call will be treated as any other call and be placed in the regular rotation, Mercer said.
Mercer stressed that he discussed the policy with the fire department and the city’s ambulance provider, AMR. He said officers will respond only if no one else can.
“We can’t have people call 911 and not get a response,” Mercer said. “We’ll send somebody until we can find somebody else to assist.”
Officers are currently finishing up their second 10-week cycle of training for the year where they learned how to perform first aid for major trauma. When they resume training in the spring, Mercer said he wants to coordinate with AMR and the fire department to enhance their basic first aid training.
But the bottom line is, residents expect someone to answer when they call 911, Mercer said.
“We can’t have it that a citizen needs help and they can’t get anybody,” Mercer said.