Calling 911 - Be Prepared
A medical situation requiring 911 assistance is among the most stressful a person can undergo. Adrenaline is pumping and, more often than not, it involves a loved one. Just these two factors can and does cause panic and panic is the last thing the problem needs. Always keep this in mind, panic breeds panic. If you become emotional then the victim, especially seniors and children, will too. If you keep your wits about you and reassure the victim then that person will become more stable as well.
We have broken a medical 911 call into three phases: Preparation, execution and the aftermath. Here we will define what each phase entails.
- Preparation: Emergencies happen when least expected or anticipated in our homes, on the road, at the lake; anywhere at anytime. Part of your overall preparation should include being certified in CPR and basic first aid and we offer these training classes at the Department. Those moments between calling 911 and the arrival of emergency personnel are vital and having the information these professionals need is essential. Also, think! What would you do if there were no access to 911?
- Do you participate in the VIAL Program? Read about it on the Public Information page. If you choose not to then at least have a centralized location where emergency contact phone numbers for relatives, next door neighbors, Doctors, etc., for people who can provide information about the victim.
- Create a written record of any and all medical condition(s) family members may have to include all medications they've been prescribed and, also, have it in a readily accessible location. Make sure to list all allergies (peanut, etc).
- Equally important to the above is to ensure all family members are aware of the information, where it is located and how to use it. Briefing babysitters is important as well as giving them a contact telephone numbers for you while you are out.
- Also, knowing what the victim was doing when the emergency occurred is most helpful. Were they cutting grass in the hot sun, or watching TV? Did they recently eat any food item that may cause gas (sausage, beans, etc)? Clear your mind and think!
- Know and make sure family members (youngsters) know your address and telephone number. Also, know the name of the closest cross street/road to your house or any major landmarks that will aid emergency personnel locate you. NOTE: Just last year a 5 year old used 911 and saved her Father's life because she knew what to do; she had been trained at our school presentation during Fire Prevention Week.
- Execution: You've prepared yourself and your family members, taken time to occasionally think about what you would do in a 911 emergency and held periodic discussions with family. Sequence of events:
- In the Home:
- Mr. Mike Flynn, Spartanburg 911 advises that the 911 Operator will first ask WHERE your emergency is located; if your call should become disconnected assets can still be dispatched. Secondly, you will be asked WHAT the emergency is. Calmly state the facts of the matter. Spartanburg 911 is a multifaceted operation and while you talk to the Operator others are initiating dispatch and updating responders enroute. So, there is NO delay by talking to the Operator. This is emphasized as it is a general misconception by the public at large.
- From Mr. Flynn, Operators do provide pre-arrival instructions for medical emergencies and their questions ensure that the appropriate response (fire, police, EMT) is dispatched. Follow all instructions and answer all questions to the best of your ability and advise the operator of any medical skills you are trained in. Again, this information is relayed to responders.
- Know that in seven to fifteen minutes your fire department will be there and, if possible, reassure the victim that help is coming. Be calm and in control.
- Remember that your best friend at this moment is the 911 Operator. For instance, should it be necessary to you to attempt a life saving procedures, the operator can/will be there for you...fear and stress can cause you to temporarily forget some steps.
- When emergency personnel arrive be prepared to give all of the information possible including the data that you have prepared for such an instance.
- Follow all instructions given by emergency responders and answer their questions as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.
- If the victim is to be transported to a medical facility have your insurance information readily available (should be part of your emergency package). Nothing could more irritating than being asked for this type of information but it is necessary. Your fireman or responder will advise you where they are going and assist you in most any manner they can. The remaining responders are now there for you.
- Away from your home and not involving family
- Say you witness a traffic accident or come upon an unconscious person or a person who is injured and requires assistance. FIRST, call 911 and don't assume someone else called. SECOND, unless the victim is in imminent danger DO NOT move or allow them to be moved. The same 911 Operator interface as outlined above applies equally here.
- Answer all questions you can by the 911 Operator and advise them of any medical training you may have.
- If necessary keep the person calm and reassure them as best you can.
- If skilled bystanders are assisting the victim offer to aid them if possible and offer the use of your first aid kit if you have one.
- Make yourself available to responders and provide them with any pertinent information.
- You can be sure that law enforcement will also respond to the scene. Take a moment to collect your thoughts and provide them with the facts in as much detail as possible.
- The Aftermath Stressful situations affect different people in different ways. When the emergency is in the hands of the professionals and before doing much of anything else, take a moment and assess yourself:
- Take a breath and determine what needs to be done next. Where are the children, do you need to travel to the hospital or who needs to be called. But first, gain control of yourself.
- If you need to go to the hospital be sure you are able to safely drive. Better yet have a friend, neighbor or relative drive you.
- Make arrangements for someone to sit with any children; the hospital, at this time, is not a place for them as it will further burden you and cause undue stress in them.
- After all has been resolved, if you feel "out-of-sorts" confide in a relative or best friend or, depending, your spiritual leader and discuss your feelings. If this doesn't help seek professional help. The only shame in this is NOT doing it!
Please review the above often, give us any suggestions you may have, pass this along to others and DON'T fall into thinking that this won't happen to you or it is always the other person. The life you save may be your loved one or maybe even your own.