Is it an Emergency?

Should You Drive or Call an Ambulance?

AmbulanceIf you answer "yes" to any of the following questions about a person experiencing a medical emergency, or if you are unsure, it's best to call an ambulance, even if you think you can get to the hospital faster by driving yourself.

  • Does the person's condition appear life-threatening?
  • Could the person's condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?
  • Could moving the person cause further injury?
  • Does the person need the skills or equipment employed by paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the person to the hospital?

If you drive to the hospital, know the location and the fastest route to the nearest emergency department. In addition:

  • Don't delay care by driving to a more distant hospital emergency department.
  • In many cases, you or the affected person will be treated in the community hospital emergency department, which is staffed and equipped to provide life-saving emergency care for patients of any age.
  • If necessary, a patient may be transferred to a hospital with special capabilities, such as a regional trauma or pediatric center.

If you call an ambulance, keep in mind that even though the 911 system was introduced in 1968, the network still does not completely cover some rural areas of the United States and Canada. Find out if your community is covered, and if not, get the telephone number for the local Emergency Medical Services and post it by your phone. When traveling, check for local EMS numbers in the areas where you will be, so you have this information before you begin your journey.

Also, be aware it is important for people calling 911 from wireless phones to tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency, because a cell tower provides only very general information about the location of a caller. Some cars now are equipped with "smart" technologies that use global positioning system satellites and cellular technology to link vehicles to direct emergency help, but many are not.

When you call for help, remember to:

  • Speak calmly and clearly.
  • Give the name, address, phone number, and location of the person in need (e.g., upstairs in the bedroom), and describe the nature of the problem.
  • Don't hang up until the dispatcher tells you to. The dispatcher may need more information.
  • Teach your children how to place an emergency call, in case you are seriously ill or injured.
  • For highway emergencies, know the nearest highway marker number, and if dealing with a wreck, know how to identify the lanes (e.g., northbound) on the highway so you can give that information to the dispatcher.

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