How and when to call 911

Calling 911 is designed to obtain an emergency service response. All emergencies are very stressful and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but following some simple guidelines will help ensure the most successful relaying of needed information.

To make a 911 phone call:

Stay Calm, it is important to think clearly.
Know where you are and if possible what number you are calling from and provide that information to the dispatcher.  If you get disconnected at least they know where the emergency is and they can attempt to call you back.

If possible provide information regarding crossroads or landmarks to assist help in finding your location.

Stay on the phone.  When possible, do not hang up, more information may be needed as personnel seek to find your location and to better understand the nature of the emergency and what situations they should be prepared for upon arrival.

Speak clearly and and slowly to effectively communicate your information.

Let the call-taker guide the conversation, answer any questions and follow all directions.  You may be asked to describe the scene, any victims and their conditions/injuries, challenges presented in the rescue such as chemicals, signs of fire, obstructions, collapsed structures, vehicles, etc.

When should you call 911

Calling 911 is a request for an emergency services response. Most importantly, use your best judgment related to when to call for help. If a life is on the line calling 911 is always right thing to do.

Consider the nature of your situation.  Is an emergency service needed?  If unsure, better to make the call, the call taker will ask you questions to help determine the most appropriate service for the situation.  Seconds can count so such decisions should be made as quickly as possible.  Understand which service is best to address the situation.  For in intruder, call police.  For fires/accidents/injuries, call the fire department.  If you are unsure if a medical issue rises to the level of an emergency, you can first attempt to call a physician and seek their advice.  Allergic reactions, when they involve breathing, are best considered emergencies given they can become more severe in a relatively short period of time.

When experiencing one of the following conditions, call 911 immediately:

Anaphylaxis – a severe form of allergic reaction usually associated with shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Bloody diarrhea with weakness- usually accompanied by changes in mental status
Chest pain-the most common sign of a heart attack
An unresponsive victim-or any patient who is not behaving normally
Confusion-or any abnormal behavior
Dizziness – especially when associated with a person “passing out”.
Drug overdose-a true emergency
Heart attack –may be indicated by chest pain, altered mental status, or difficulty breathing
Heat stroke – normally related to exposure to extremely hot temperatures
Shortness of breath – if they cannot talk in complete sentences call 911
Stroke- may present with slurred speech, weakness on one side of the body, or alteration of mental status.
A medical situation or injury that is a danger to a persons well being.