How to Call for Emergency Help

You or a loved one may be injured or seriously ill. Or you may be the first person at an accident scene. Do you know what to do? Speed is crucial in a medical emergency. Knowing how to respond quickly can help save lives.

Who to call in an emergency

Emergency medical services (EMS) is a team of emergency professionals. It includes paramedics, doctors, nurses, police, and firefighters. In many places, dialing 911 connects you with EMS. If your community doesn't have a 911 system, find out what number to call in an emergency. It's often listed in the front of the phone book. Your children should also know how to summon help. Teach them to dial 911, or keep emergency numbers posted by the phone. Be sure to teach them how to call from a cell phone or smartphone too. Have someone else call for help if you need to care for an injured person.

When to call

Not all illnesses or injuries need urgent care. This is not a complete list, but you should call EMS if the person:

  • Doesn't have a pulse 

  • Is unconscious or semiconscious

  • Has trouble breathing

  • Has severe stomach or chest pain

  • Has severe burns or bleeding

  • Is vomiting blood or passing blood in stool or urine

  • Has moderate or severe head, neck, or back injuries

  • Has a broken bone

  • Is choking

  • Is drowning or had a near-drowning

  • Has a new seizure or prolonged seizure

  • Is in a major automobile accident or another form of trauma such as a stab or gunshot wound

How to call

When you call for help, remain calm. Speak slowly and clearly. Stay on the line until you're told to hang up. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your name, address, and phone number

  • The exact location of the person needing help

  • The number of people needing help

  • The nature of the problem