About Medicine: Having to call 911, what to expect

About Medicine: Having to call 911, what to expect

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In an emergency, dial 911 or your local emergency number immediately. An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance. Examples include: A fire, a crime, a car crash, or a medical emergency, especially symptoms that require immediate medical attention. If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.

Having to call 911 can be an extremely anxious activity. Depending on the situation it may be a matter of life and death. This month we will review some of the different components of calling 911 including what to expect from the 911 dispatchers, first responders, and emergency department staff. We will also review some items that can be prepared in advance to ‘help us help you’ in a more expeditious manner.

There are small tasks you can complete right now to help responders find you quicker. One important way to assist the responders is to have a clearly marked and well-lit number to identify your residence. Ravalli County is becoming more populated and has many new roads.

Another way to assist responders is to clearly articulate the address you are calling from. This is becoming increasingly more important with the prevalence of cell phones. The address should include the house number, street, and town. There are many addresses that are duplicated in the neighboring town and it is important to not assume the system can pinpoint your location.

The 911 Center is staffed with Ravalli County Sheriff Office personnel who are highly trained and very professional. They serve as the first access point for requesting emergency services. When speaking with a 911 dispatcher it is important to provide the address and the reason for calling 911. The dispatchers will guide you through the process. They will ask questions that will assist them with assigning the closest most appropriate resource to your location. The resources may include law enforcement, ambulance, and fire department. Many fire departments in Ravalli County provide Quick Medical Response units that will assist and provide medical care until the arrival of the ambulance.

It is very important to be aware that first responders are usually dispatched while the 911 Dispatcher is still gathering the information. The questions do not delay the response in any way but the information often provides the first responders with additional information. This may include information regarding the location, patient, or safety concerns.

The 911 Dispatchers may provide first aid instructions that can be followed until the arrival of the first responders. You should never be the first to hang up with the 911 Dispatcher unless your safety is in question.

When the request is for an ambulance the 911 Dispatcher will ask questions using an Emergency Medical Dispatch algorithm. The information gathered will assist the dispatcher with dispatching the closest most appropriate ambulance. The algorithm will also suggest the use of lights and sirens for high priority call types. The use of lights and sirens has been shown to increase the risk to the community and should be utilized only for life and death situations. It has been a culture change for first responders and patients. If the ambulance arrives without the use of lights and sirens it does not lessen the urgency of your request for ambulance service.

If you call 911 and have another person with you willing to help it is a good idea to have them turn on the light and greet the first responders at the door or curbside. First responders will always scan the street and it is easier to see a person than a house number. When they arrive you can escort them to the person requesting or requiring medical assistance.

Another good task to complete is to gather all of the paperwork regarding advanced directives and power of attorney if applicable. This paperwork is usually needed at the hospital to provide guidance and information that staff will utilize to honor a patient’s wishes.

It is also good to have a medication list for current medications. The list should include the name of the drug and the dosage. This will also assist EMS and the emergency department staff when developing a treatment plan.

If the patient has a primary care physician or had a recent appointment with a specialist, it important to share that with staff. The information may be used to request copies of ECGs or other diagnostic tests to compare with the emergency at hand.

Finally if you dial 911 by accident it is important that you remain on the line and speak with a 911 Dispatcher. If you hang up the 911 Dispatcher will attempt to contact you and most likely send law enforcement to check on your safety. This will engage valuable resources and time to track you down.

For questions and or comments please contact Willie Torres, Jr., EMS Department Head, Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital at 1200 Westwood Drive, Hamilton MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!

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