MDA medics take calls at the 101 National Dispatch Center
MDA medics take calls at the 101 National Dispatch Center Magen David Adom

The dispatch systems of Israel’s three rescue services are now interconnected so any of the three agencies — Israel Police, the Fire and Rescue Service, and Magen David Adom — can now automatically dispatch each other in emergencies without having to manually contact them, as was previously necessary.

The interconnect, which was developed by the in-house programming unit at Magen David Adom (MDA), Israel’s emergency medical service, will speed the flow of information between all three rescue services and potentially save time and lives in emergencies requiring responses from multiple agencies.

Israelis dial separate emergency numbers for police, ambulance, and fire (100, 101, and 102, respectively). The clear advantage of that system is that callers don’t have to first talk to a 911 operator as they do in the U.S., a sometimes time-consuming process that can delay a response by minutes. While callers in Israel only have to call one number in an emergency, it was incumbent on the police, fire service, or MDA to call or radio the other agencies if the emergency required their response as well.

This new three-way connection eliminates the need for that call, enabling the artificial intelligence that MDA built into its own system, as well as the system MDA designed for the Fire and Rescue Service, to automatically summon the necessary resources — even those from the other agencies.

“We’ve long believed that having separate numbers for police, EMS, and fire rescue, has been an advantage for callers in an emergency,” said Eli Bin, Director-General of Magen David Adom, Israel’s national EMS organization. “In a medical emergency, for example, callers are instantly connected to an EMT or paramedic, who can provide lifesaving medical instructions to the caller while the ambulance is dispatched.”

Under the system’s design, entering the nature of an emergency into any of the service’s computer-assisted dispatch (CAD) systems will determine whether multiple agencies are dispatched. A call to MDA regarding someone injured in a shooting, for example, would automatically summon both an ambulance and police. Likewise, reporting an apartment fire to the Israel Fire and Rescue Service would summon personnel from all three services — firefighters to address the blaze itself, police to control street traffic, and ambulances to treat anyone potentially injured.

“The new interconnect will save time and potentially lives,” said Ido Rosenblat, MDA’s chief information officer, who oversaw MDA’s role in the initiative. “Previously, the protocol for us to contact police or fire services was sequential, meaning we’d dispatch our ambulances and Medicycles and only then contact the other agencies.”

Similar sequential processes would happen at the Israel Police or at Israel Fire and Rescue if they were first called, but determined other agencies needed to be dispatched, too.

“Now,” Rosenblat explained, “the process is simultaneous, meaning that police, fire, or ambulances are dispatched at the same time — and from any of the three agencies — automatically if the emergency dictates a multi-agency response. That’s a huge timesaver, one that will bring a more robust emergency response more quickly to the scene, and free up dispatchers to spend more time counseling the caller and providing them with better service.