Medical Emergency? Help the EMTs Help You
5 ways to make their job easier when minutes count
Someone in the house fell or is having symptoms of a heart attack or another health emergency. You call 911 — and wonder why it’s taking the ambulance so long to arrive. It could be something you did, or didn’t do.
Taking steps to make the dispatcher’s and the EMT’s job easier could save a life.
Start by staying calm enough when you call 911 to give the dispatcher the information she needs. Cliveita Caesar, Director of 911 Communications for Grady EMS, one of the largest hospital-based EMS providers in the Southeast, has received hundreds of calls from people who are too hysterical to listen to the dispatcher and respond to her questions.
“We can’t help you if we don’t have an address or have a phone number to call you back in case we disconnect,” she says. "These are the most important things we must have in order to do anything.”
Here are five other game-changing pieces of advice to keep in mind.
Add big numbers to your house. Whether it’s on your mailbox or next to your front door, make sure your street number is easy to see, including in the dark. Buy large numbers at your local home improvement store and leave the porch light on, if possible. And don’t hesitate to give other hints for the driver. “Sometimes you can tell us the color of the home or if there’s a person standing outside,” says Caesar.
Know your location. If you’re away from home and aren’t sure exactly where you are, “helpful things for us are cross streets and landmarks or if they are at a home, get some mail to see the address,” suggests Caesar.
Unlock the door. Make it easy for the EMTs to get in by unlocking the front door, advises Caesar. If you live in an apartment, “give us the gate codes so we can easily access it. Sometimes we get there and we can’t get in. We need an apartment number as well,” says Caesar. Consider leaving a hide-a-key outside your home in case you’re alone when an emergency happens and you can’t reach the door. Let the dispatcher know its location.
Put your pet away. “If you have a pet, secure it in another room, away from the patient,” says Caesar. Even the friendliest pet can turn aggressive when strangers burst into the room. Don’t let Fido get in the way of the ambulance crew or even attack them.
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Make a list of medications. The EMTs will want to know what medications the person takes. Plan ahead by keeping a list on the fridge. Note any allergies as well. If you live alone you may not be in state to communicate this information when help arrives. If you don’t have a list, collect all the medications the patient is taking in one spot for the ambulance crew, advises Caesar.