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Effectiveness of the Dual Dispatch to Cardiac Arrest Policy in Houston, Texas

Raun, Loren PhD; Pederson, John MS; Campos, Laura BA; Ensor, Katherine PhD; Persse, David MD

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: September 11, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000836
Research Full Report: PDF Only

Context: Houston policy is to dual dispatch medically trained firefighters, in addition to emergency medical services (EMS) units to out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) cases. While believed to improve public health outcomes, no research exists supporting the policy that when firefighters respond before a better-equipped EMS unit, they increase the probability of survival.

Objective: To inform EMS policy decisions regarding the effectiveness of dual dispatch by determining the impact of medically trained firefighter dispatch on return of spontaneous circulation (ROSC), a measure of survivability, in OHCA 911 calls while controlling for the subsequent arrival of an EMS unit.

Design: This retrospective study uses logistic regression to determine the association between ROSC and response time for fire apparatus first responders controlling for arrival of the EMS unit.

Setting: Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest cases in Houston between May 2008 and April 2013 when dual dispatch was used.

Participants: A total of 6961 OHCA cases with the complete data needed for the analysis.

Main Outcome Measures: Logistic regression of the dependence of OHCA survival using the indicator ROSC, as related to the fire first responder response times controlling for subsequent arrival of the EMS.

Results: Fire apparatus arrived first in 46.7% of cases, a median value of 1.5 minutes before an EMS unit. Controlling for subsequent arrival time of EMS has no effect on ROSC achieved by the fire first responder. If the firefighters had not responded, the resulting 1.5-minute increase in response time equates to a decrease in probability of attaining ROSC of 20.1% for cases regardless of presenting heart rhythm and a 47.7% decrease for ventricular fibrillation cases in which bystander cardiopulmonary resuscitation was initiated.

Conclusions: The firefighter first responder not only improved response time but also greatly increased survivability independent of the arrival time of the better-equipped EMS unit, validating the public health benefit of the dual dispatch policy in Houston.

Department of Statistics, Rice University, Houston, Texas (Drs Raun and Ensor, Mr Pederson, and Ms Campos); City of Houston Health Department, 7411 Park Place Blvd, Houston, TX 77087, USA (Dr Raun); Emergency Medical Services, City of Houston, Houston, Texas (Dr Persse); and Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas (Dr Persse).

Correspondence: Loren Raun, PhD, Rice University, 6100 Main St, Houston, TX 77005 (

This study was funded by Houston Endowment.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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