About Emergencies

What To Do in An Emergency

Main Points

  • 911 PhoneEmergency physicians are medical specialists who are trained to provide lifesaving care.  They diagnose and treat every kind of medical condition that becomes an emergency.
  • Emergency physicians provide lifesaving care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and care for everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Emergency patients educate the public to program their cell phones with an emergency contact name and phone number under the acronym ICE [in case of emergency]. 
  • The initial minutes after an injury or medical crisis frequently are the most important. They key is knowing what to do, remaining calm and making a decision to act.

Preventing Medical Emergencies

  • Preventing medical emergencies means getting yearly doctor's exams and regular exercise. Protect your health by determining whether you're at risk for any life-threatening conditions, and follow your doctor's suggestions to reduce any risk factors that can be dangerous to your health. For example, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quit.
  • All medicines should be kept in child-proof containers and well out of the reach of children.
  • All poisonous materials should be stored out of reach of children in child-proof containers.
  • Drive carefully and appropriately to weather and traffic conditions. Children should be secured in child-safety seats. Your local police and fire department can help ensure you have installed the seat correctly.
  • All passengers in motor vehicles should wear safety belts.
  • Many states have regulations regarding the wearing of personal floatation devices (PFDs) or lifejackets on watercraft. Even strong swimmers can become incapacitated in an accident.
  • Never operate a vehicle if under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Read warning labels on all medications to see if they impair your ability to drive or operate machinery.

Preparing for Medical Emergencies

The initial minutes after an injury or medical crisis frequently are the most important. They key is knowing what to do, remaining calm and making a decision to act. 

  • Keep a list of emergency phone numbers by the phone. Include numbers for: police, fire, poison control, local hospital, ambulance service, and your family physician.
  • Keep and maintain a well-stocked first-aid kit at home, at work and in your vehicle. This will help you handle medical situations. ACEP offers information about what should be included in first-aid kits at www.acep.org..
  • Keep a list of all your medications in your wallet, including drug names, strength, dosage form and regimen. Also list all allergies, especially to medications.
  • Also keep a list of emergency contacts such as family members. 
  • Wear your medical-alert bracelet or necklace. 
  • Take a first-aid class. This will not only help you stay calm and focused, but will also help you to help yourself and those around you in the event of an emergency.

Recognizing What Is, and What Is Not an Emergency

  • If the emergency is life threatening - call 9-1-1. This is a free call from any phone, including pay phones.  Even non-activated cell phones, provided they have power, can be used to reach 911.
  • If the emergency is not life threatening, do not call 911. It is more cost effective to drive or take a taxi to the hospital or doctor.  Ask yourself the following questions:
  • Could the victim's condition worsen and become life-threatening on the way to the hospital?
  • Could moving the victim need the skills or equipment of paramedics or emergency medical technicians?
  • Would distance or traffic conditions cause a delay in getting the victim to the hospital?
  • If you suspect a spinal injury, do not move the victim. Call 911 and wait for help to arrive. You may be asked to administer CPR or the Heimlich Manuver in cases of stopped breathing or choking.
  • The victims of any future attack; whether nuclear, chemical, biological or conventional; will be sent to emergency departments for treatment.

Responding Appropriately in Medial Emergencies

  • Action can mean anything from calling paramedics, applying direct pressure to a wound, performing CPR, or splinting an injury. Never perform a medical procedure if you are unsure of how to do it.
  • Calling 9-1-1 is the best thing to do in an emergency situation, even if you cannot speak. 911 operators can identify your location from the call. Do not hang up until instructed to do so by the operator.
  • Emergency rooms provide services to any and all patients, regardless of their ability to pay, insurance coverage.

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