Using 911 Appropriately

911_govSince 911 was introduced in 1968 as a universal number for reaching emergency assistance, efforts to raise public awareness about 911 have been effective—perhaps too effective, some reports have speculated. Because most people face emergency situations only rarely, they lack firsthand experience with 911. As a result, they may have unreasonable expectations about what will happen when they contact 911 for emergency assistance. Thus, many public safety answering points (PSAPs) follow protocols that reassure callers and guide them through a sequence of questions and instructions that help call-takers take charge of the situation and to quickly obtain information that is needed to dispatch the right responders to the right location.

Generally speaking, people are aware that they should call 911 in an emergency, but they are less aware of the circumstances in which they should not call 911. The result is that many calls to 911 do not involve true emergencies, which creates a burden on the system.

Newspapers, TV news and websites have publicized a growing number of cases in which people called 911 to complain about such non-emergency situations as inquiring about parking tickets, asking for advice on cooking a turkey or being dissatisfied with their order at a fast-food drive-through. Tapes of such calls have even provided ongoing fodder for late-night TV comedians, with one show featuring a recurring segment on the subject.

Inappropriate use of 911 can be expected to continue, or possibly even grow, as 911 services become available through enhanced technologies and via new communications methods such as text messaging. In addition, public expectations for 911 technology may exceed the actual capabilities of the 911 system, and there may be instances where, for example, people send a text message to 911 requesting emergency assistance, instead of calling. In such a case, the caller might not be aware that the text message did not go through.

All of these factors suggest a growing need for targeted and well-coordinated public-education efforts.

What level of service does my area cover?

The Wales Genesee Fire Department is currently licensed at the Advanced EMT level. Some members are licensed at the EMT level, but several members have gone on to receive additional training in order for Wales Genesee to provide a higher level of service. Wales Genesee also works closely with the Lake Country Fire Department, which is a paramedic service. During certain emergencies, Lake Country Paramedics are automatically called to the scene to work with Wales Genesee EMTs.

What is the difference between an EMT and a Paramedic?

In Wisconsin, there are several levels of pre-hospital emergency response.


First aid/CPR

Very minimal training. Babysitters, coaches, teachers take general first aid courses in order to recognize and initiate the emergency medical service system. Generally classes run from 4 to 16 hours.


First Responders

This level of training is designed for the person who is often first at the scene. Many police officers, firefighters and industrial health personnel are certified EMS First Responders. The emphasis is on activating the EMS system and providing immediate care for life threatening injuries, controlling the scene and preparing for the arrival of the ambulance (Brady 10th Edition) First Responders initiate patient care with limited equipment and interventions. First Responders are also trained in CPR and the use of the AED. One of the biggest industries that utilize a first responder program in their daily operations in Waukesha County is Quad Graphics. Training time is a minimum of 45 hours of training in basic emergency response. Generally first responders do not transport patients.



In most areas, the EMT is considered the minimum level of certification for ambulance personnel. Certification as an EMT requires successful competition of the U.S. DOT’s EMT Basic National Standard Training Program. The curriculum for the EMT deals with the assessment and care of the ill or injured patient. (Brady 10th Edition) EMTs in Wisconsin are trained with additional advanced skills and interventions. Initial training for EMT is 144 hours. Just a few years ago, most ambulance service providers were at the EMT level. Wisconsin then added an additional level of service and now most Waukesha County services are at providing care at the Advanced EMT Level.


Advanced EMT

This is a unique specialized level started in Wisconsin. Several other states are now reviewing the program and considering adding this level in their response. Advanced EMTs are able to do everything the EMT is able to do as well as start IVs and give 3 additional medications that the EMT is not able to intervene with. The additional medications include Nitro for specific cardiac emergencies, Dextrose for diabetic emergencies and Narcan for certain overdose emergencies. An additional 100 hours of schooling is required to move from EMT to Advanced EMT.



The EMT-Intermediate has passed specific additional training programs in order to provide some level of advanced life support. They are able to intervene with additional medications for certain emergencies and they are able to use advance airway techniques to secure a patients airway.



Paramedics can generally perform relatively invasive field care including insertion of endotracheal tubes, administration of many medications that are given in the emergency department, interpretation of electrocardio grams, defibrillation, pacing and cardioversion. Paramedics have the access to many interventions and medications and training, which enable them to perform at a more advanced level It takes approximately 1100 hours of instruction to finish the paramedic program in Wisconsin. Hours may vary depending on clinical and field experiences.

How much school does it take to become an EMT?

The state of Wisconsin has set curriculums set up for both areas of study. The State of Wisconsin follows the U.S. Department of Transportation National Standard Curriculum and adds Wisconsin specific skills and interventions.


EMT 192 hours of instruction
Advanced EMT 100 hours of additional instruction
EMT-Intermediate 350 hours of additional instruction
EMT-Paramedic 1,200 hours of additional instruction


EMTs are responsible for continuing education every year. Licenses expire every two years. At the EMT level, continuing education includes a 30-hour refresher course and 48 hours of additional training in various topic areas. Much of the continuing education is handled each month with department trainings.

How much school does it take to become a Firefighter?

Through classroom and practical skills instruction, members learn to apply advanced firefighting skills and education to mitigate various emergencies.


Firefighter I 112 hours of instruction
Firefighter II 42 hours of additional instruction
Driver / Operator 66 hours of additional instruction
Officer I 60 hours of additional instruction
Do EMTs and Firefighters sleep at the station?

Our station has 3 dormitories available for members to use as sleeping quarters. Most of the members respond to the fire station from their homes or businesses. The dorms are available for members who live a longer distance away and can’t respond to the fire station within 4 minutes.