Marty Kelly

Did you know that there are more than 350,000 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests that occur annually in the United States? They are the leading cause of death, and only about 1 in 10 victims survives. 

Minnesota has recognized this and our office is prepared.

Over-the-phone CPR instruction by a dispatcher, also known as telephone CPR or T-CPR, can enable a caller to become a lay rescuer, and by doing so make the difference between life and death. Early CPR performed by a lay rescuer is associated with a roughly twofold increase in the chances of survival. The first unofficial TCPR case was provided in the state of Washington in 1975 with Salt Lake City entering full implementation in 1978.

Minnesota Statute 403.03 § 2, requires every 911 center or public safety answering point or PSAP to maintain a T-CPR program by July 1, 2021. In order to comply with the statute, 911 centers are provided options. Those are:

  • to provide callers with full emergency medical dispatch services, 

  • provide callers with T-CPR pre-arrival instructions 

  • and/or train 9-1-1 dispatchers to recognize a cardiac arrest call and transfer them to a secondary public safety answering point. 

Goodhue County 911 Center has chosen to partner with our secondary medical public safety answering points to provide T-CPR to callers once an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is recognized.

Our secondary medical public safety answering point are Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service, M Health Fairview and North Memorial Health Ambulance Service, depending on location of the caller and patient. All three of these entities provide certified staff who are trained to receive calls from Goodhue County that need T-CPR instruction. 

A bystander who calls 911 to report a medical in Goodhue County will be asked a series of evidence-based questions by the 911 dispatcher. If the answers to these questions identify a person in need of CPR, they will be transferred to the respective secondary public safety answering point for T-CPR instructions.

Regular training

In the months of May and June, our 911 dispatchers had completed their initial training and will have refresher training every two years thereafter. Training is a combination of a general CPR course with an additional online T-CPR component. 

These calls can be difficult, both for the caller and the dispatcher. There are times a caller may refuse to provide CPR or is otherwise unwilling to unable to provide CPR or receive T-CPR instruction. Our 911 dispatchers will exercise judgment and discretion in performing their duties.

To ensure our quality assurance, our staff will conduct ongoing quality assurance of our T-CPR program and protocols. These are not meant to be punitive on our 911 dispatchers. Our quality assurance will be a continuous improvement process that is aimed at improving service to citizens.

Communications Capt. Chad Steffen and our dispatch sergeants invested many hours into our local protocol. Dispatch Sgt. Wayne Betcher serves on the Statewide Emergency Communication Board’s NG911 Committee, which assisted local public safety answering points throughout Minnesota by providing guidance. This was valuable to our process.

Get it right

Steffen is confident in the training, protocol and procedures. Throughout this process, we learned that if our protocol is not properly implemented, or the start of CPR is delayed it can have long-term outcomes for the patient. 

Getting it right was paramount from the beginning.

We also know that for every minute CPR is delayed, the survival rate of the patient drops by 10%. We now will be a part of increasing the chance of survivability for patients when a cardiac arrest strikes. We are excited to have partnered with our emergency medical service providers and secondary medical public safety answering points to make this additional level of service available. This is a good thing and we are fortunate to be able to provide this service.


Marty Kelly is the Goodhue County sheriff.

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