How Can I Help in a Medical Emergency?

Know What to Say
  • Calling for help is easy. Just dial 911. The information you give the emergency dispatch operator helps EMS help you.
  • Stay calm, speak clearly, and stay on the phone until the emergency operator tells you to hang up
  • Tell the emergency dispatch operator where to find the person needing emergency care, who is hurt or sick, and what happened. The emergency operator will also need to know what condition the victim is in and if any help is being given.
  • Give the exact location of the emergency. Point out any landmarks - nearby intersections, bridges, and buildings that will help the ambulance crew find you. And leave your name, address, and telephone number in case the emergency operator needs to get back in touch with you.
Know What to Tell the Emergency Dispatcher
When you call 911, take the following steps:
  • Describe the emergency; speak slowly and calmly
  • Give your name and phone number
  • Give exact location/address and nearby landmarks
  • Give name, age and number of patient(s), if known
  • Follow the dispatcher's instructions and answer all questions
  • Don't hang up until you are told to do so
  • Don't leave the scene until help arrives
Know What to Do Until Help Arrives
You've called for help. The ambulance is on the way. What do you do while you wait?

If the emergency operator gives you specific instructions, remember them and carry them out. Don't move someone who is injured unless he or she is in danger. Try to keep the person as warm and comfortable as possible. If someone else is with you, send him or her to meet the ambulance. Make it easy for the ambulance crew to spot you by turning on a porch light.

Know What to Do While Waiting for the Ambulance to Arrive
Things you can do for the patient:
  • Stay calm, keep patient calm
  • Keep patient awake and warm
  • Do not give the patient anything to eat or drink
  • Do not move a person who has been in a car accident, had a serious fall or is unconscious, unless he or she is in immediate danger
  • Perform first aid if you are willing and able
Know What to Do for Yourself & Your Family
  • Arrange for children to stay with a friend or neighbor
  • Pack a small bag for yourself
  • Bring insurance cards and family/friends contact information
  • Lock up the house, turn off all appliances
Know What to Do for Emergency Responders
If possible:
  • Light your location with a porch light
  • Send someone to the street to flag down the ambulance
  • Clear a route to the patient; move cars, furniture, plants, etc.
  • Close off pets from rescuers or put pets in another part of the house
  • Gather or write down all the patient's medications and allergy information to give to first responders
  • Check to see if the patient has any advance directives (such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders)
Note the time:
  • When did you last talk with the patient?
  • How long has the patient had this medical problem?
  • If unconscious, how long has it been?
Make the right call. If it is potentially life threatening or you are in doubt, don't guess, call 911.