Dispatch CPR

Making the Call

When someone is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, it’s critical to give them CPR as soon as possible. Yet it’s equally important to call 911—so important, in fact, that the American Heart Association calls telecommunicators (those answering the 911 call) “the true, first responders.”

Emergency calls are more effective when the telecommunicator and caller can work as a team to quickly and accurately assess the state of the patient, along with providing and noting other pertinent details—and that includes offering step-by-step CPR instructions to a caller.

“Fellow rafters quickly got to work, cutting off gear, doing CPR, shocking his heart with an AED and calling for help using a satellite phone”

— Joel was a cardiac arrest survivor

What Is Dispatch CPR/Telephone CPR?

Improving these exchanges prompted the creation of dispatch-assisted (DA-CPR) programs, also known as Telephone CPR (TCPR) programs. These programs also help ensure that telecommunicators give callers proper CPR instructions so that the person in distress receives immediate lifesaving assistance. That includes overcoming common barriers to effective CPR, including identifying agonal breathing and getting a cardiac arrest patient into proper position on a hard, flat surface, which can delay the start of TCPR by up to 100 seconds.

Seconds matter when administering CPR to someone in cardiac arrest, which is why TCPR programs have been associated with significantly increased rates of bystander CPR, survival and survival with favorable functional outcomes. One example? King County, Washington, where the provision of dispatch-assisted CPR was associated with a 45% increased likelihood of survival. And in Arizona, Korea and Japan, TCPR programs were associated with increased likelihoods of survival with favorable functional outcome of 68%, 67% and 81%, respectively.

Starting hands-only CPR as soon as possible is essential:

*©2016-17 International Academies of Emergency Dispatch – Used by permission

TCPR Programs

TCPR programs, including those referenced above, are typically structured around several topics:

  • Revising protocols per guideline recommendations
  • Enacting guideline-based training and continuing education
  • Providing quality improvement reporting, both system-wide and by individual telecommunicators


If you have questions about starting or improving a telephone CPR program, contact us