When should you call an ambulance instead of driving to the emergency department?
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the victim’s condition life threatening?
- Could the victim’s condition worse and become life threatening on the way to the hospital?
- Could moving the victim cause further injury?
- Does the victim need the skills or equipment of paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
- Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the victim to the hospital?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” or if you are unsure, it’s best to call an ambulance. This is true even though you can sometimes get to the hospital faster by driving than by calling an ambulance. Paramedics and emergency medical technicians communicate with the physician in the emergency department by radio. They are trained to begin medical treatment on the way to the hospital. This prevents any delay that could occur if the patient is driven to the emergency department. The ambulance can also alert the emergency department of the patient’s condition in advance.
When in doubt, call an ambulance! We have no problem checking things out and NOT transporting, and there is no charge if there is no transport. After we examine the patient, we will tell you if there is no emergency, and you can take the patient to the doctor or hospital yourself. We’d rather be called to help than see someone suffer needlessly.
How to Call an Ambulance
If you live in Jefferson County, calling for help is easy. DIAL 9-1-1. When your call is answered, BE CALM. Speak slowly and clearly, and listen to the questions the dispatcher asks you.
- Give your name
- Give the address where the emergency is
- Give the phone number you’re calling from, especially if it’s a cell phone
- Give the location of victim (such as upstairs in the bedroom)
- Tell the dispatcher the nature of the problem.
- DO NOT HANG UP until the dispatcher tells you to. They may need additional information or need to give you instructions.
BUT…CELL PHONES ARE A PROBLEM!
It is even more important to stay calm and follow the same rules as above when on a cell phone. Much of the TIERS area still spotty cell service, and remember that cell phones sometimes break up. Also, some cell phone systems–Vonage, for example, WILL NOT operate correctly when 9-1-1 is dialed.
YOU MUST STAY CALM, LISTEN TO THE PERSON YOU’RE SPEAKING WITH, AND NEVER HANG UP YOUR CELL PHONE UNTIL THE AMBULANCE ARRIVES.
How do you tell the difference between a true emergency and a minor problem? Certain symptoms are so alarming that the need for emergency care-or even an ambulance-is obvious. But what should you do about more common illnesses and injuries?
Only a doctor can diagnose medical problems. But, you can protect your family’s health by learning to recognize certain symptoms.
Know which symptoms to watch for. According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following are warning signs of a medical emergency:
- Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
- Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision
- Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion, difficulty arousing)
- Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
- Bleeding that won’t stop
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
- You should also be familiar with the symptoms of common illnesses and injuries.
Talk to your regular doctor before you have an emergency. Ask what you should do if you think someone in your family needs emergency care. Should you call the doctor’s office first? Should you go straight to the emergency department? What should you do when the doctor’s office is closed?
Trust your instincts. Parents are usually very good at recognizing signs of unusual behavior or other symptoms that indicate an emergency. Many other factors, including the time of day, other medical problems, or state of mind, can make an otherwise minor medical problem an “emergency.”
What Else Can You Do To Get Ready?
Know how to begin basic life support techniques until professional help arrives. Courses in CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and Basic First Aid are offered by TIERS, your local American Red Cross or American Heart Association.
Post a list of all emergency telephone numbers (Police, Fire Poison Control Centers, Physicians) on or near all phones in your home. Make sure that emergency numbers are programmed into all cell phones.
Print this list and post it, too.
- Post a clear set of directions to your home alongside those emergency numbers in case your mind goes blank, or if a child or visitor has to call for help.
- Make certain your children know how to dial for help in the event of an emergency, including how to call on a cell phone.
- Your house numbers must be posted clearly so the ambulance can easily find you. TIERS offers highly reflective address signs for sale.
- Leaving on the porch light, even during the day, assists the ambulance in finding the correct location. If possible, have someone flag down and meet the ambulance.
- Have File of Life information available if possible. TIERS has free File of Life kits.
- Gather all the medications the person is taking in one spot for the ambulance crew to inspect, or have a correct, up-to-date list of medications available.
- Do not “dress” the patient for travel – most often the the ambulance crew will need to access the patient’s arms, chest and abdomen for examination, blood pressures and electrocardiograms.
- If you have a pet, secure it in another room. Even the friendliest pet can turn violent when strangers burst into the room, and will get in the way of specialized medical equipment used by the ambulance crew.
- If you can, make sure that all furniture is moved out of the way and the stairs and floor are clear for the crew to bring in their stretcher and equipment. Turn all the lights on in the room where the patient is.
- Ambulance crews need to use oxygen on many calls so be sure to put out all cigarettes or other smoking items.
- Often items that simply need to be thrown away may be left at the scene of an intense emergency. Provide a wastebasket or bag to dispose of unwanted items.
Some material provided by the American College Of Emergency Physicians.