Most of us know that we should call an ambulance only in an emergency situation. But in the heat of the moment, especially if someone you care about is sick or injured, it is not always easy to tell if you are dealing with a true emergency.
When deciding whether it is necessary to call an ambulance, take a moment to assess the situation and ask yourself some questions: Does the patient’s condition seem life threatening, or likely to deteriorate and become life threatening? Is the patient unconscious or having difficulty breathing? Do you see signs of severe bleeding? Would moving the patient cause further harm or injury? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, call an ambulance immediately.
You should also consider logistical issues, such as whether distance or traffic conditions could cause a delay in getting the patient to a hospital, or whether you have access to a vehicle and know the shortest way to the nearest hospital. In general, the golden rule is that if you are in any doubt, call an ambulance.
If the situation does not seem to be an emergency, but you still require medical assistance or special medical transportation, remember that you can call other numbers for non-emergency medical transportation. These services will be able to help you without diverting ambulance resources from other more critical situations.
Calling for an ambulance can be a difficult and stressful experience. In order to help the process go as smoothly as possible, try to keep in mind these three simple, but very important, instructions:
1. Speak clearly.
In order to help you, the emergency operator must be able to understand what you are saying. Take deep breaths, slow down your speaking pace, and state the details of the situation as distinctly as possible. Try to be concise rather than providing all the information at once. If the operator does not understand or needs more details, he or she will ask for clarification.
2. Know where you are calling from.
Whether or not the ambulance service has the ability to trace your call (for example, calls from landlines can usually be traced, but calls from cell phones cannot), it will greatly help if you can identify exactly where you are calling from. Give the street address, if possible. If you don’t know the address, or if you are outside or in a public location, give as much information about nearby streets, landmarks, or other location identifiers as you can.
3. Don’t hang up until instructed.
It is crucial that you stay on the line unless and until the emergency operator tells you to hang up. The operator may need to give you simple first-aid instructions over the phone. He or she may also need up-to-the-minute updates on the patient’s status or further information regarding your location.