A woman recently called 911, frantic.

Her wedding ring would not come off. She had tried every tip she found on the internet. Nothing worked. She was desperate.

There was a time when a fire engine or an ambulance would have been sent to render aid, but today a call like this is transferred to a nurse trained to help folks get the right care for non-emergency medical issues.

Over the years, we’ve done a fantastic job ensuring everyone knows to call 911 to get help in an emergency.

Unfortunately, we haven’t done such a great job teaching people what exactly constitutes an actual emergency, so folks often call 911 for a range of non-emergency needs from minor fractures or cuts to stuck wedding rings.

When firefighters and paramedics are dispatched to non-emergency calls, they can’t respond quickly to the calls where time is of the essence, such as someone not breathing or suffering a heart attack or stroke.

That’s why CONFIRE has implemented an Emergency Communication Nurse System called “Right Care, Right Time.”

CONFIRE provides emergency communication services for the San Bernardino County Fire Protection District, which serves unincorporated areas as well as the cities of Fontana, Upland, Twentynine Palms, Yucca Valley, and Victorville. The agency also has contracts with the cities of Rancho Cucamonga, Colton, Loma Linda, Apple Valley, Redlands, Chino Valley, Rialto, Big Bear Lake, Montclair, and Victorville.

On average, the agency handles about 19,000 911 calls a month, and officials estimate about 3,500 of those calls don’t need an emergency response.

“We are now able to use evidence-based protocols to safely determine the appropriate level of care,” CONFIRE Director Art Andres said. “Once a 911 call is determined to be lower acuity, nurses spend time with the caller to determine the appropriate level of care and facilitate the location to receive care based on a directory of resources.”

“Right Care, Right Time” began in December 2020 and was accomplished in partnership with the San Bernardino Council of Governments.

Currently, about 45 nonemergency calls per day could be diverted to the nurses, officials estimate. However, limited funding means CONFIRE doesn’t have enough nurses to answer every non-emergency call, but over time, the agency plans to grow the program. This will help reduce response times to life threatening emergencies and could mean more lives saved.

(San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford represents the 2nd District, which includes part of Fontana. This article originally appeared in “The Rutherford Report.”)

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