Calling all cars
JCMC upgrades 911 communication center
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Feb 23, 2014 | 5642 views | 5 5 comments | 359 359 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WHO DO YOU CALL? Barbara Allan, a dispatcher at JCMC 911 center, is taking a woman through a life-saving procedure.
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When Barbara Allen, a 9-1-1 dispatcher at Jersey City Medical Center, picked up the phone on Feb. 18, the woman on the other end said her husband wasn’t breathing.

Up on the screen in front of her popped instructions for Allen, a trained Emergency Medical Technician, to give, while nearby another operator altered JCMC alerted a JCMC paramedics unit to head to the location.

Because the woman was calling from North Bergen, the operator had to alert local officials in order to send an ambulance to the site. If this had been Jersey City, a JCMC unit would have been dispatched.

Because the situation was considered life threatening, JCMC – which is the county trauma center – sent a paramedic unit.

While Allen was reading script off a screen, allowing her to give the woman instructions on the other end of the line, a duplicate print copy of those same instructions was nearby in case something went wrong with the computer.

Everything is redundant, sometimes duplicated more than twice.

“Is there a doctor there?” Allen asked.

The woman on the far end said, “No.”

Allen then told the woman to lay the man on his back on the floor. The woman didn’t have the strength, and so Allen asked if there is someone in the room to help her. There was, and they helped put the man on the floor.
“Jersey City Medical Center’s EMS has been serving our community for more than a century.” -- Dennis Patrisso
“You have to start compression,” Allen told the woman. “Put the heal of your hand on the breast bone and pump hard and fast, two per second, two inches deep.”

Allen said she wanted her to do this 600 times or until the EMTs arrived to take over, and counted out the pumping with her, telling the woman at intervals how well she was doing, and to keep it up.

Accommodating other situations

Although not all the calls to the 9-11 center are life and death the way this one was, many are, and the center is designed to accommodate nearly every situation, including people who speak Spanish, and if necessary, a 24-hour translation service for many of the other languages that are spoken in Hudson County.

The center located on the third floor of Jersey City Medical Center in Jersey City is the official 9-1-1 site for medical services for the county, and has undergone significant changes over the last decade, keeping on the cutting edge of technology in order to improve response times from when the center gets a call to when an ambulance arrives on the scene.

Earlier this month, JCMC EMS upgraded to the latest in cutting-edge emergency communications technology with the installation of Sentinel 4.2 call processing consoles, which provide a host of addition information to dispatchers in an easy to read format that allow dispatchers to make quicker and more informed decisions at times of emergency.

This replaces a 25-year old dispatch communications technology and significantly upgrades EMS response capability.

The new technology allows remote site answering in the event of an emergency or outage at the dispatch center. It streamlines the call-taking process, allowing for expedited emergency response. The system builds in multiple redundancies to protect against emergency-related outages.

When fully implemented the system will allow the public to submit information about emergency situations via text, images, video, and other data directly to 9-1-1 centers.

“Jersey City Medical Center’s EMS has been serving our community for more than a century, and we pride ourselves on combining experience with the latest technology in order to save lives,” said Dennis Patrisso, Communications Manager for Hudson County Communications Emergency Network.

This is only the latest in a number of changes to the dispatch center ongoing for well over a decade, but saw significant impetuous after the terrorists attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 when various public safety entities found they could not talk to each other. But they also found that many of these groups needed to, but did not have adequate communications with area hospitals.

This was hugely important in the event of a large disaster with a significant number of injured, who might need to be admitted. With the consolidation of hospitals and reduction of overall number of beds, public safety needed to communicate better with dispatch centers to know which hospital had the resources they needed.

This lesson became even clearer during Hurricane Sandy in late 2012 when hospitals around the county faced flooding and power loss.

The dispatch center along with its nearby command center conference room not only allows a number of decision makers to meet, but also provides computers that allow them access to information to make decision.

Nearly all the information that is available to the dispatch center is available here. Although there are power backups of all kinds, each computer is portable and if necessary everything can move somewhere else.

The dispatch center, originally located at the old hospital campus, was moved into the new hospital around 2004 with significant improvements.

The center in one form or another existed since the 1980s. The 911 system celebrated its 46th anniversary recently.

Some of the more recent innovations include two systems that provide dispatchers with historical and contemporary information.

One map paints areas where history shows calls typically come from during a particular time so that dispatchers can position mobile units nearby to reduce response times. These also read historic traffic patterns so as to allow ambulances to avoid typical backups such as those caused when schools let out.

“This has helped allow us to reduce our response times by one third,” said Patrisso.

Ambulances are located in areas where they are expected to be needed most, and give ambulances information they need to avoid areas that cause delays.

EMTs and paramedics also do a lot more on site than they did in the past, equipped with everything from IV to life saving drugs, and they are in communication with doctors at JCMC, who monitor the situation and offer treatment options.

Another monitor studies real time information, and makes comparisons that alerts dispatchers to possible larger problems such as similar medical issues that either indicate a terrorist situation or some kind of health issue – perhaps bad food being served as restaurant. This is a system that also shows possible outbreaks of bad drugs related to a number of similar calls.

Oddly enough, with all the intense modernization, the dispatch system maintains its traditional analog radio system, not digital – partly due to the experiences learned on Sept. 11 when a number of digital systems failed, while traditional radio continued to operate.

Al Sullivan may be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 27, 2014
If JCMC EMS technicians did not want to work in the rain, sleet or snow, then--to paraphrase our beleaguered Governor--"they don't have to do the job; they can do something else."

People of Jersey City: you need to wake up to this corruption before it too late. JCMC EMS has been price-gouging Jersey City for over 100 years--ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. It is time for a change. The mayor has made his decision; let it stand.

Certain city officials will just have to forgo their kickback payments and let Jersey City move on. Jersey City just can't afford JCMC EMS anymore. Jersey City, as well as the state will be facing pension funding issues for police and fire men and women soon enough.

Nick R.
February 25, 2014
Good job by not only Barbara but the team if EMS Employees that put their lives on the line everyday for the citizens of Jersey City and Hudson County. When I mean everyday that includes rain, sleet, snow, and sun. Whatever the weather whatever the conditions. JCMC EMS employees deserve better than this they deserve to have the contract and deserve the right to know they still have a career at Jersey City Medical Center. This is not fair that Fulop has made this a political agenda in his quest for Gov. of NJ. this is about who is the most qualified for the contract. We all know it is JCMC's men and women of the department. As far as this genius and his comments, all I can say is I guess someone didn't get enough hugs as a child!! In closing I would like to say Fulop stop dragging your "feet" in this decision and give it to the most qualified bidder.
February 24, 2014
JCMC EMS has had the monopoly in Jersey city for over 100 years. Too long! Jersey city is in desperate need of change. JCMC EMS is unscrupulous-plain and simple. EMS drivers divert patients to JCMC by default and they participate in gang-stalking as coordinated by the office of HLS/OEM Sgt W. Greg Kierce. I can PROVE this. And it will be posted to the internet very soon.

The mayor made his decision a long time ago, why is it taking so long to rid Jersey City of this money-glutinous scourge? Could it be too many accomplices and stallers are still demanding their usual kickback.
February 23, 2014
Good job barbara!! Strong Work.

(Whoever wrote this needs to proof read before they publish...She's an Emergency Medical Technician not management technician)
February 24, 2014
I don't think it matters; both are lowly educated.