Generally speaking, we all know to call 9-1-1 in a medical emergency. But exactly what constitutes an emergency can cause confusion.
A medical emergency is a condition that, if not treated immediately by medical personnel, will likely pose a risk to life and long-term health. These include:
- Severe labored or distressed breathing that does not improve with rest
- Sudden blindness or severe vision changes
- Heavy bleeding that will not stop
- Severe burns
- Someone has passed out or is unresponsive
- Broken bones visible through a wound
- Heart attack/Chest pain
- Severe medical issue that occurs while alone
- Sudden change in mental status
- Desire to commit suicide or murder
If you are in doubt, call 9-1-1 and allow the trained dispatchers to determine if there is in fact an emergency.
Commonly asked questions:
What should I expect when I call 9-1-1? Emergency dispatchers are typically professionals with specialized training to provide real-time CPR instruction and live-saving first aid advice, while dispatching emergency responders to your location. They will likely ask a number of questions to determine the type and level of assistance you will need. Be sure to listen carefully, as each question has a very specific purpose.
Can I text 9-1-1: There are efforts to expand call centers’ ability to receive texts across the US, however current availability is very limited. For now, always call from a landline or cell phone.
What do I do if I or my child dial 9-1-1 by accident? Do not hang up! Disconnecting the line may cause the dispatcher to assume there is an emergency. Simply explain the mistake.
Where do I call for non-emergency assistance? This website is a great resource for non-emergency phone numbers for your area. It is also worth keeping handy when on vacation or away from home, as well. https://www.policeone.com/resources/articles/247166006-Non-emergency-police-phone-numbers/
Are the dispatchers able to communicate with the deaf/hearing impaired? Yes, they are equipped with Telecommunication Device for the Deaf. If you do not have access to a TTY/TDD, the caller should dial 9-1-1 and stay on the line. Most centers will be able to determine their address and send help.