Published on May 21, 2021

When to Call 911

By: Ashley Ballah, Director, North Central EMS

This week is National EMS Week. North Central EMS owned by Fisher-Titus is a non-profit organization that has served the community since 1986. In addition to being there for our neighbors, friends, and families during medical emergencies, we offer other services like non-emergency ambulance transportation and wheelchair transportation.

So, what defines a medical emergency?  Since 9-1-1 is meant for emergencies, it is important to understand when to call and when not to call.  When someone calls 911 for a non-emergent situation this overloads the 911 system, potentially delaying care for a someone who really needs it.

Of course, we are always happy to respond if you are ever not sure, but we also want to make sure you are prepared so that in an emergency you know when to call 911 or when you can seek medical treatment another way and avoid an unnecessary ambulance trip.

Here are some situations where you should always call 911:

  • Bleeding that does not stop with direct pressure over the wound
  • Head injury with loss of consciousness, confusion, or vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Allergic Reaction
  • Unresponsive person
  • Car accident resulting in serious injury
  • Large, deep cut or severe burn
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty speaking, numbness, or mental status change
  • You are alone and cannot safely drive yourself to the Emergency Department
  • Suicidal ideations

If you are unsure whether your situation is a true emergency or are on the fence, always call 911.

Calling 911 for Someone Else:

Before you drive someone to the Emergency Department, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is their condition life threatening?
  • Could moving the person could cause further injury?
  • Will the distance or traffic on the way to the hospital cause a life-threatening delay?
  • Can I safely drive the patient? Consider things like your stress level, whether they need assistance on the drive, etc.

If you answer yes to any of the first three or no to the last question, call 911.

When you call 911, have the following information readily available for the dispatcher. It is very important to give accurate information so that they can get help to you help quickly.  Please stay on the line until the dispatcher instructs you to hang up.

  • Location of the emergency with as much information as possible (address, mile marker, landmarks, etc.)
  • Your phone number, in the event you get disconnected
  • Details of your emergency

If you ever dial 911 in error, do not hang up. Explain to the dispatcher what happened.  Disconnecting the call will result in emergency officials believing that an emergency exists and they may send first responders to your location.