Calling 9-1-1

When Should I Call 911?

Dial 911 when there is the IMMEDIATE need for Medical, Fire, or Police assistance. Some situations that you may call 911 include but are not limited to:

  • Crimes in progress
  • Life threatening situations that could include injuries or illness
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Fires or smoke in a building
  • The odor of gas or smoke or carbon monoxide alarms sounding

If you are not sure if a situation requires calling 911, the right thing to do is call. Crews that respond can make that determination so you don't have to.

When Should I NOT Call 911?

911 is for emergencies only. Do not call 911 for non-emergency transportation. Doing so can divert resources away from situations which could be a matter of life or death. If you just need transportation, call a taxi or use public transportation.
Non-emergency medical transportation for routine doctor appointments should be schedule through services other than 911.

Why Shouldn't I Just Drive the Patient Myself?

Calling 911 immediately, when you think someone is badly hurt, sick, or in danger, connects you with the whole emergency medical team—emergency dispatch operators, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, physicians, and nurses. This team is specifically trained and equipped to handle these situations.
Once on scene, paramedics and emergency medical technicians are trained and equipped to begin assessing and providing emergency medical care which can save critical time as it relates to the patient's outcome. They are also in contact with the emergency room physician and are able to alert the hospital of the patient's condition prior to arrival.

Driving someone to the hospital in an emergency could put you and the patient at greater risk:

  • The patient's condition could worsen without needed treatment creating potentially irreversible issues.
  • Moving some patient's could make their condition worse.
  • Most individuals are not trained or equipped to safely provide emergency care.
  • Driving in traffic with a person having a medical emergency in your vehicle can be distracting and dangerous to you as well as other drivers on the roadway.

Why Would the Fire Engine and the Police Show Up for a Medical Call?

When 911 is called, the goal is to have trained personnel on scene as quickly as possible. Police Officers are trained in basic care and fire engines are staffed with emergency medical technicians, or even paramedics. In many cases, responders are responding from different areas. Regardless, of who shows up first, treatment can be started by that first arriving unit.

Additionally, many responses require more than the two people on the ambulance can manage. This is especially true if the patient is critical or in cardiac arrest. Often times it will take several rescuers to safely remove people from a house with the lifting and maneuvering that is necessary. Lastly, crews from the ambulance, fire engine, and police department work as a team where each person serves a role in the management of the patient and getting that patient to the hospital. Don't let this deter you from calling 911 in an emergency.

Information to have available when calling 911

When you call 911 be prepared to answer several basic questions.
What is the location of the emergency?
What is your phone number?
Give a basic description of the problem

By the time you answer most of these questions, in many cases, emergency crews are already being notified to respond. The dispatcher may have other questions and may talk you through how to assist with medical care prior to emergency crews arriving. Don't hang up until the dispatcher tells you to.