November 26, 2021

Red Cross to honor dispatcher

Jacob DeRochie/contributing photographer

Adam McCracken, a Cortland County 911 dispatcher, sits at his station early Monday morning at the tail end of his eight hour shift. McCracken is being honored Wednesday by the American Red Cross for helping to talk a person through cardipulmonary resuscitation over the phone.

When Adam McCracken answered an emergency phone call in September, he thought it was just another call. And then his training kicked in.

For the past 11 months McCracken, a Cortland County 911 dispatcher, has answered dozens of calls, but one in particular made him eligible for an American Red Cross award. Dispatch Coordinator Gene Caufield said the 911 center answers an average of 250 calls daily.

Sept. 19 was just another day of work for McCracken. He clocked in at 4 p.m. and was scheduled to work until midnight. The call came in at 9:16 p.m.

The person calling said a woman was on thefloor and not breathing, McCracken said. He began to assess the situation. “The first thing was to keep calm and keep the family as calm as possible,” he said.

McCracken then talked the caller through cardiopulmonary resuscitation until responders arrived on scene, he said.

How much CPR saves

• In 2010, 21.8 percent of patients who received cardiopulmonary resuscitation on scene survived until they got to the hospital.

• In 2001, only 7.9 percent of patients who received on-scene CPR survived to get to the hospital.

• In 2010, 10.8 percent of CPR recipients survived 30 days.


McCracken’s actions were possible through a new protocol at the dispatch center — Emergency Medical Dispatch.

Established in February, Emergency Medical Dispatch uses a series of questions dispatchers have to ask to assess medical calls. Once information is gathered, dispatchers begin prearrival instructions, McCracken said.

All dispatchers are trained in it. Before the program, a dispatcher from TLC ambulance dispatch would walk people through medical emergencies.

The best advice McCracken has for anyone in that situation — stay calm. “You’re no help to anybody if you’re hysterical,” he said. “Remember what you’re taught and the rest will be what it is.”

McCracken is a new hire who is excellent to work with, Caufield said. “He has learned the job very well,” Caufield said.

Caufield said it takes a different type of person and personality to be a dispatcher and Mc- Cracken has that. A dispatcher needs to remain emotionally removed from the emergency call while still providing essential assistance, Caufield said.

In September, county Director of Emergency Response and Communication Scott Roman put McCracken’s name in for the Red Cross’ Lifeline award. Roman said McCracken was the first person to use EMD in life saving since the program started. “He is diligent and has taken to the program,” Roman said.

Only 8 percent of the dispatch center’s call volume is truly life threatening, Roman said, and cases that need CPR are even fewer.

McCracken didn’t jump into the job looking for recognition, he was just looking to help people. The last anyone at the dispatch center had heard was the patient who needed CPR survived.

There is always satisfaction knowing he helped someone, McCracken said, but he doesn’t expect it. “Part of the job is not knowing,” he said.

In October, McCracken received a phone call from the Red Cross about the award. He’ll attend a breakfast Wednesday in Syracuse, where it will be presented along with 11 other awards in categories from good Samaritan awards to workplace safety awards.

While McCracken isn’t looking for any recognition, he said Roman and Assistant Director Courtney Metcalf were kind enough to put his name in for the award. “I’ll be kind enough to accept it,” he said.