MEDICAL EMERGENCIES: When to call and what to expect, when
you dial 9-1-1 and, what to do before help arrives.
It is estimated that on the average, every individual in the U.S. or Canada will call
for emergency assistance at least twice during their lifetime. Fear and helplessness
can be reduced or eliminated by knowing when to call and what to expect when you
phone 9-1-1 .That is the purpose of this complimentary brochure produced by two
nationally recognized training organizations, the National Academy of Emergency
Dispatch and the American Safety &Health Institute.
What To Expect When You Call 9-1-1
Typically, a professional emergency dispatcher with specialized training to deal with
crises over the phone will answer your call to 9-1-1. Be prepared to briefly explain
what your exact situation is. Many dispatchers today are trained to provide real-time
instruction in CPR and life-saving first aid while simultaneously dispatching
Emergency Medical Service (EMS) professionals to your location. Listen to the
dispatcher and follow their instructions.
Most public safety agencies have access to a variety of highly trained personnel,
specialized equipment, and vehicles. To ensure that the right people with the right
equipment are sent to the correct location, the 9-1-1 dispatcher must ask you
specific questions. Sometimes in an emergency, it may seem like these questions are
being asked to determine whether or not you need help. In actuality, they are being
asked to determine the level of help you need. Remember, trained dispatchers never
ask questions that are unnecessary.
The dispatcher will always ask you to say the address of the emergency and your
callback number for verification. Having you say it to them (or say it twice if they
don’t have a computerized 9-1-1 screen) must always done to be sure it is heard and
copied down correctly by the dispatcher. They know how important it is to do it
“right” and not just “fast”.
There are four universal questions the dispatcher needs in order to put their
knowledge and experience to work for you quickly and effectively after the address
and callback telephone number of the emergency have been verified as correct:
Person’s problem or the type of incident (“Tell me exactly what happened?”).
Is he or she conscious?
Is he or she breathing?
Getting this critical information from the caller typically takes less than 30 seconds.
After that, you may be asked to do nothing, get out of an unsafe environment, or
stay on the line and assist in providing care for the ill or injured person. Working
with 9-1-1 callers, EMDs who are dispatchers trained to provide telephone instruction
in CPR and life-saving first aid have helped to save thousands of lives during the first
five to ten minutes of the call
In all cases,
remember the most important thing you can do when calling 9-1-1 is to LISTEN
CAREFULLY. Always do whatever the dispatcher asks you to do. Don’t tell them to
“hurry”. They already know that. Every question they ask has an important reason.
That’s why it’s in their protocol.
Dialing 9-1-1 On A Cell Phone
The use of cellular phones to activate EMS is growing very quickly. However, at the
current time, wireless technology is ahead of public service capabilities.
It is important to know that the system that identifies a caller’s location and
telephone number currently does not work with wireless phones. This makes it
difficult or impossible to send help to people who cannot identify their location. If you
are calling from a cell phone and do not know your location, the dispatcher will work
with you to help determine your exact location or where to send help.
A federal government project is underway to make sure calls for help made from cell
phones in the United States will be routed to the closest public safety agency for
proper dispatch and that their location can be more accurately determined.
It is highly recommended that you take a certified course in CPR and first aid. Even
when highly trained dispatchers (EMDs) and EMS professionals are readily accessible
in the community, prompt, properly administered first aid care still can mean the
difference between life and death, rapid vs. prolonged recovery, and temporary vs.
permanent disability. These courses are available through authorized
Safety and Health Institute
Simply knowing when to call and what to expect when you phone 9-1-1
can help reduce fear and helplessness in an emergency. When calling 9-1-1, keep in
mind that the most important think you can do is to LISTEN CAREFULLY and DO
EXACTLY what the dispatcher asks you to do. Emergency service professionals are
normally always available to assist you through times of crisis, confusion, and
Let them be your lifeline.
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