How to Call EMS (9-1-1)

Sending someone else to call the emergency number (9-1-1 in most areas) is better because it enables you to stay with the casualty and keep giving first aid.

The dispatcher in a communications centre will answer the local emergency number. This person quickly decides which professionals to send to the scene and may give the caller instructions on how to give first aid until the help arrives. For a casualty of poisoning the dispatcher may also connect you to the nearest poison centre for instructions on what first aid to give. Therefore, you or the caller first must have the right information to give the dispatcher.

When you tell someone to call for help, do the following:

  • Send a bystander, or possibly two, to make the call.
  • Give the caller the EMS telephone number to call. This number is 9-1-1 in many places.
  • Tell the caller(s) what to tell the dispatcher. Most dispatchers will ask for the following important facts:
    • Where the emergency is located. Give the exact address or location and the name of the city or town. If there is any risk that arriving EMS personnel may not locate you immediately, give additional information about how to reach you and if needed have someone met them when they arrive.
    • Telephone number from which the call is being made. Give any other available phone number as well for a call back.
    • Caller's name. Note: Give these first three pieces of information first so that the dispatcher can still act even if the call is disconnected.
    • What has happened — for example, a motor vehicle accident, fall, or fire.
    • How many people are involved.
    • Condition of the casualty — for example, chest pain, trouble breathing, no signs of circulation, bleeding. The dispatcher will ask if the person is conscious and breathing and the person's approximate age.
    • The first aid being given.
  • Tell the caller not to hang up until the dispatcher hangs up. Be sure the dispatcher has all the information needed to send the right help to the scene.
  • Tell the caller to report to you after making the call and tell you what the dispatcher said.

If you are alone with the casualty, call out loudly for help. Shouting may attract someone who can help you by making this call. If no one comes, get to a phone as fast as you can to call EMS. Then return to the casualty to keep giving help.

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