Think you have an emergency? When to call 911

Accidents follow me. Mostly small accidents actually involve me, but somehow I keep on seeing accidents. In the past year I have seen two different car accidents and had to call emergency response for a house call twice. Trouble is following me. While I would shake seeing disasters often, being the eye witness to these events has taught me some things about disaster.

You should never hesitate to call in an emergency, but police dispatchers are complaining that they are receiving too many calls that are not real emergencies. Haven’t you seen that PSA (public service announcement) about a man suffering from a heart attack while his wife frantically dials 911 and only finds a busy signal? Should it scare people off from calling 911?

Honestly, these PSAs are not to scare people from calling 911. However, the commercials (and the people behind them) are combating a problem. Too many events are getting called into emergency numbers that do not require emergency response.

So how do you know when to call 911 or when to wait?

911 is emergency response. So therefore, it should only be called in an emergency. Generally, 911 would be called if you want an ambulance. What constitutes as an emergency is conditions like heart attack, stroke, broken bones or unconsciousness.

The biggest reason I call 911 for work (I work with seniors) is for falls. Seniors (or really anyone) who fall can seriously injury themselves. You should never try to move the victim on your own. They may have sustained injuries that are not visible to the naked eye. For example, if they fractured a hip, moving the victim on your own could make the injury much worse. If you do witness a fall, don’t move the victim and call 911 immediately.

If you are a witness to an accident- like a car accident- you should call authorities. Of course, if there are injuries, you should call 911 immediately. For a minor fender bender, it is best to call your city’s non emergency number. Don’t have the number plugged into your phone? You’re not the only one. Call 911 but make sure to let the dispatcher know immediately that it is not an emergency. They can transfer you without wasting valuable emergency minutes.

One senior who needed medical assistance begged me not to call 911 because she feared driving away in an ambulance and she didn’t want to front the cost. Here is what you need to know about ambulances. For starters, just because the ambulance comes does not mean they will whisk you away with all of the lights blazing. When I called a paramedic for my reluctant senior the lights stayed off. Because we knew it was not an emergency, but she still needed medical attention. The paramedics visited her and gave her a health assessment. No lights, no noises. She also worried about the cost. Thankfully, many health insurances, even temporary health insurance, can provide some coverage if you are whisked away. However, if the paramedics do not put you on a stretcher, you won’t have to pay a dime.