BY MARIJKE VROOMEN DURNING
KNOWING HOW TO call for help is the most
important part of getting emergency aid.
Anyone can make the call, but the way it’s
done could save valuable time.
When I taught first aid, I would start each
session by asking the class if they knew the
address of the homes they visited most often—
usually close friends, siblings or adult children. Most of them were surprised to realize
that they didn’t know. And although I would
teach others about the importance of knowing
these addresses, I recently learned that I didn’t
follow my own advice. I had to call 911 from a
family member’s house, and although I’d been
there many times over the years, I had no idea
what the street number was. I had to run to the
front door to check.
Although many 911 services automatically detect your location, not all can, particularly if you are using a phone connected
through an internet provider or a cellphone.
“It may seem silly to post your own
address somewhere near your telephone, but
children, visiting friends and relatives, people
with memory problems and others may have
difficulty telling the call taker your address in
times of crisis,” Fire Captain Rommie
Duckworth explains. Duckworth, a Costco
member, is the paramedic emergency medical services (EMS) coordinator for the
Ridgefield Fire Department in Connecticut.
Calling for help
When dealing with an emergency, you
have to take a moment to try to think clearly
before you can help someone else. The calmer
you are, the better you can handle the situation
When the call taker responds, be as specific as you can. In many areas, your call will
be transferred and you may have to repeat
the information. Listen closely to any questions you’re asked and to any instructions
you may be given, either to begin caring for
the injured or sick person or to help the emergency responders.
Stay on the line even if you
feel you’ve given all of the necessary information. Wait until you
are specifically told that it’s OK
to disconnect the call. The call
taker may want to keep the
communication open or ask
Waiting for help
After you’ve made the call,
the wait can seem agonizingly
long, even if it’s only a few
minutes. Unless you’ve been
instructed to do something
else, you can use this time to move any
obstructions, such as large pieces of furniture,
out of the way. The emergency responders
will need space.
“Today’s EMS providers practically bring
the emergency department into your home
and will need a good amount of room to
work,” Duckworth says.
If you are in an apartment building with a
buzzer, or if you are a long distance from the
front door (long hallway, stairs, etc.), asking
someone to wait by the door to let the responders in can save time.
Another important thing to think about
are pets. “Secure any dogs, cats or other pets,”
Duckworth says. “Your pets may be friends,
but they may become aggressive during an
emergency, try to escape or otherwise make it
difficult for the responders to help.”
When help arrives
Once the responders have arrived, don’t
crowd them. If other people are around, ask
them to stay in another area, but make sure
one person stays available to answer questions
or relay messages. Too many people in the area
can create confusion.
Hopefully, ;ou’ll never have to call for
emergency medical assistance. Dealing with
such an emergency can be very stressful, but
knowing how to effectively call for help and
assist the responders can save valuable
time—and lives. C
Marijke Vroomen Durning is a health writer
and registered nurse in Montreal (thenurse
Tips for calling for
• Before an emergency occurs,
make sure your house number is clearly
visible from the street, even at night,
and from both directions of travel.
• Apply reflective numbers, at
least 3 inches tall, on the sides of a
mailbox or lamppost in
front of your house.
• Offer visual clues
when giving your address,
such as “the house with the
green shutters” or “there’s a
red pickup in the driveway.”
• Gather together any
medications the sick or
injured person takes, to
give to the responders.
• Don’t allow anyone to park
around or at the back of the ambulance
once it has arrived.—MVD
FOR YOUR HEALTH