Most of us will probably call 911 only once or twice in our lifetimes. Even then, some people hesitate. In an emergency, it may be tempting to pile the victim into your car and rush to the hospital, but doing so could actually prove harmful.
In an emergency, make the 911 call. Here’s why.
Calling 911 alerts the emergency medical community that help is needed. When the ambulance arrives, the patient immediately receives an expert evaluation and the appropriate treatment can begin. Driving a patient to the hospital actually delays the onset of life-saving treatment.
The paramedics also know how to move a patient without causing further injury. And, en route to the hospital they monitor the victim’s condition and can be ready to act should it worsen or become life-threatening. The ambulance crew will alert the hospital about the patient’s condition. This gives the emergency department time to alert any special staff that may be needed.
If the patient has broken bones, for example, an orthopedic surgeon can be waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Or, a patient with a possible heart attack may be transported to a hospital with a chest pain center, where heart experts are waiting to provide care.
When you call 911, the dispatcher will ask a number of questions. Speak calmly and clearly and be prepared to give your name, the address, phone number and location of victim. You will be asked for a detailed, yet concise description of what happened and why assistance is needed.
The best way to call 911 is from a land line, because it will automatically connect to your local dispatch office. If you call from a cellphone, you may be rerouted to another dispatch center, depending on the information you provide. If you call from a cellphone, be aware of your surroundings and try to watch for the road signs, business names and intersections that can help the first responders find the accident.
Stay on the phone, listen to the dispatcher and follow his or her orders. Because most of us lack firsthand experience with 911, the dispatchers follow protocols that help them quickly obtain the information they need to dispatch first responders to the right location.
Since 911 was introduced in 1968 as a universal number for reaching emergency assistance, efforts to raise public awareness about 911 have been very effective.
Remember, 911 is reserved only for true emergency situations in which there is a definite, likely or uncertain threat to life, health or property. Be sure to dial 911 only when the situation you are reporting requires an immediate response by police, EMS or the fire department.
If you do accidentally call 911 without an emergency, do not immediately hang up. Stay on the line and let the operator know that it was an accident, giving your name and address. The operator may interpret that the hang-up was done by somebody else and you may find the police at your door.
Marilyn Ranson is a Public Relations Specialist at NorthBay Healthcare, a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.