What to Do When You Call 911

When there is a medical, fire or police emergency, the first thing that often comes to a person’s mind is to call 911. 911 is a universal, emergency phone number that provides on-line and on-scene emergency assistance. Emergency operators and call takers are standing by 24/7, 365 days a year to provide you with helpful information over the phone, and especially to send you emergency personnel like paramedics, the fire department or law enforcement. As a caller, you should take calling 911 seriously. Knowing what to do when you call 911 could help ensure a timely response and could even save someone’s life.

Give All Necessary Information
One of the most common complaints that civilians have when calling for emergency help is that the operator asks too many questions and they are delaying a patient’s care. This complaint is false. 911 operators are promptly dispatching help to your location after an address or location is given. There are different roles in an emergency communications center, and different tasks are being carried out in a variety of methods. Call-takers are trained to get all pertinent information from callers including location and details on exactly what is going on, as well as any life saving instructions. Dispatchers are receiving all information and relaying it to the emergency responders. So, even though you can’t hear the call-taker sending an emergency unit, be assured that help is coming with lights and sirens.

For medical emergencies, questions are asked about the patient’s current condition as well as any past medical history. These questions are asked to assure that the appropriate response is being sent to your location. For instance, a patient in cardiac arrest may need more help compared to a patient who simply has back pain. Callers are typically asked to stay on the line after questioning so that proper medical care can be attempted before the paramedics arrive. Remember to answer all questions that are directed your way, if possible. These questions and following instructions could possibly save someone’s life, or keep someone from getting harmed.

Be Cooperative and Stay Calm
When you or someone else is hurt or in danger, it can be hard to stay calm or be cooperative. Your cooperation is imperative to yourself and others, as well as the 911 operator. When you try to remain calm, your voice comes across more clearly over the phone and you are easily understood. Even though emergency communicators are trained to handle irate callers, cooperation makes the situation go a lot smoother. You are also able to think more clearly and carry out any life saving instructions given to you over the phone more effectively, like CPR.

Ways to Help Improve Emergency Response Times
Most emergency medical and fire systems are designed to have the quickest response times possible, even without proper cooperation. However, there are a few things that you can do ahead of time to try and get a quicker response. First, staying on the line and answering all questions is most important. Also, calling from a landline enables call takers to see your exact location. Seeing your exact location could be beneficial in cases where you aren’t able to talk to an operator at the time. If you’re calling from a public place or location, where the patient or situation may not be easily accessible, have someone stand out front to meet the emergency responders.

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