New Martinsville Henry County 911 System Saving Lives

Henry Co., VA -- New upgrades to the 911 call center in Martinsville and Henry County could mean saving many more lives. The new technology is a step by step guide to handling any crisis.

When you call 911 now, an operator can walk you through an emergency to help stabilize you. And many people say this technology is making them feel a lot safer.
911 operator, Susan Parnell says emergency calls like this one don't happen too often.

"The baby is coming out, the baby is coming out!" said caller.

Last month, a woman called saying her sister was in labor.

"The baby's head is out," said caller.

Parnell helped deliver the baby from miles away. But she says she couldn't have done it without some assistance of her own. With Martinsville and Henry County's new 911 system, operators can now walk a caller through an emergency. The operator asks the caller several questions and then can see step by step instructions on their screen. Before, they could only stay on the line with them until crews arrived.

"The dispatchers are now the first of the first responders," said JR Powell, director of Martinsville-Henry County 911 center.

The system also allows operators to prioritize a call. This system cost around $100,000. 80% of which was funded by a grant. They say it's well worth it.

"Life and death can be within two minutes, or five minutes so being able to help them before rescue arrives can be a big lifesaving technique," said Parnell.

Parnell says being able to instruct care often allows the caller to calm down. And in cases like this one, it even ensures a baby's safety.

Just a week after that call, she actually helped walk another woman through saving a choking baby. So, she says the system really has proven itself.