The May 23 Metro article "Fairfax 911 Staff Lacks Medical Training" unfairly characterizes the public safety communications personnel at the 911 center as being untrained and ill-prepared to give lifesaving instructions to callers reporting medical emergencies.

Center personnel have been trained in providing such instructions and have received a number of valor awards for exceptional performance. The missing link is a formal emergency medical dispatch system, which allows for personnel certification and which recommends the sending of the appropriate number and types of vehicles for a given situation.

These two functions are not integrated properly, through no fault of the center's dispatchers and call-takers. The ideal system has been recommended since 1992 but unfortunately has not been funded. The Fairfax County Police Department, which runs the center, submitted a comprehensive budget proposal this year that would have included the system. Once again, the proposal was not approved.

Fairfax Countians can rest assured that the personnel at the 911 center are dedicated professionals trained to deal with life-threatening emergencies. We simply need to give them the proper tools, additional training, certification and recognition that they need and deserve.



The writer is deputy chief of emergency medical services for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department.