When to Call EMS (9-1-1): When In Doubt, Call

Calling EMS or 9-1-1 should be one of the top priorities if someone is having a medical emergency or is unconscious. This is particularly true if the person's condition is deteriorating. If you are ever in doubt, make the call. You will not get in trouble if you truly believe there is an emergency.

If you are the one rendering first aid, get someone else to call 9-1-1. Identify that person by pointing to them and making eye contact. Then politely, but firmly, tell them to go and call 9-1-1 right away and to give the necessary information to the dispatcher. Make sure they understand by getting a verbal response from them. Ask them to return after the call so you are sure the call was made.

Some examples of when it calling EMS is necessary include:

  • Unconsciousness or altered level of consciousness.
  • Breathing problems (difficulty breathing or no breathing).
  • Persistent chest pain or pressure.
  • No signs of circulation.
  • Severe bleeding.
  • Vomiting blood or passing blood.
  • Poisoning.
  • Convulsions, severe headache, or slurred speech.
  • Injuries to head, neck, or back.
  • Possible broken bones.

Also, always call EMS if the casualty is involved with any of the following:

  • Fire or explosion.
  • Poisonous gas.
  • Downed electrical wires.
  • Swift-moving water.
  • Motor vehicle collisions.
  • A casualty who can't be moved easily.

Things to remember about calling 9-1-1:

  • You do not need a quarter to call 9-1-1 at a payphone, it's free.
  • You can use a cell phone, but make sure you tell them exactly where you are because they may not be able to trace your location.
  • Stay on the line until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.
  • If you are in an office you may have to dial a line out of the building before you can call EMS e.g. dial 9 then 9-1-1.
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