If you come across a medical emergency and need to call for help, these tips will make sure that your call to 999 (UK) or 911 (USA) is as successful as possible.
Check the person for a medical alert bracelet or ID necklace. Make sure to check both of their wrists, and their neck. Medical alert jewellery is usually worn on the pulse points, as it’s common to check heart rate in an emergency. Check any jewellery that carries a medical symbol - a Caduceus (snake and staff) or Star of Life - as well as anything that carries their name. Medical conditions or allergies could explain why the person has collapsed, or it could carry important details like emergency contact phone numbers or blood type.
What sort of help is needed? Know the difference between a life threatening emergency, and a situation where you need general advice and care. The NHS describes a life threatening emergency as one where the person is seriously ill, injured, or their life is at risk. The situation may involve loss of consciousness, continued confusion or seizures, persistent severe chest pain, breathing difficulties, severe bleeding that cannot be stopped, severe allergic reactions, or severe burns or scalds.
Get to a phone, and call the emergency number. Remember cell phones will call an emergency number even if they don’t have available minutes. And you don’t need to unlock it, so don’t be bashful about using someone else’s.
It’s generally not a good idea to put the emergency number on speed dial – unless you’re travelling and the number is different than what you’re used to. You’re unlikely to forget it, and with speed dial it is easier to accidentally call the number when it’s not needed.
If you’re travelling or working in a high risk or remote area, you may be relying on a cell phone with low signal. In this situation, Spartan Rescue recommends staying clear of trees and hollows when you make the call. If you can’t get a connection on the first call, they suggest trying again in one minute (as your mobile may be scanning for other networks), and turning your body 180 degrees (to give the best chance of a straight line between the mobile and the cell phone mast).
Be able to describe your location, and the location of the emergency (if different). You can’t rely on your cell phone to do this for you (they don’t always transmit an accurate location to the emergency operator). If you are inside a house, and you don’t know the address, look around for some post or a piece of mail that might tell you what the address is. Alternatively, look outside at the house number or the mailbox. If you’re out and about, try to give details of nearby cross streets, or any well known landmarks in the area. The more specific you can be, the quicker emergency services teams will be able to find you.
Try to provide a phone number for callbacks. Your mobile number would be an obvious one, or if you’re calling from a landline, the owner may have written the number on the handset or base unit.
Clearly and succinctly describe the emergency. Stay calm, and focus on the specific information that will help them get the care they need. Make sure to explain any information from the person’s medical alert bracelet. Respond clearly to questions from the operator, and remember you can probably talk faster than they can type! Keep a cool head and it will be easier for them to send the right type of help.
When the call is complete, stay with the person and collect any other information that could help paramedics when they arrive. Remove pets from the scene, ensure that the ambulance crew can access the area, and get back in touch with the emergency operator if the situation changes.
Following these tips for calling 999 or 911 will help get the person the best possible medical care in an emergency. Any tips or experience you would like to share? Please add your thoughts below...
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