Tips for Calling 911 – how to call EMS

Do you know how and when to call 911?

It seems obvious. You pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1 (at least you do in this area). Is it really that easy? Well yes and no. That’s why calling for help is included as a teaching topic on every course we offer. Tomorrow it will be kids from 4-8 years old. Next time, it could be you in class…. read on to make yourself seem really smart!

Where are you calling 911 from?

‘Location, location, location’ as the saying goes. There are areas in which 911 works and is the correct number for emergency services. There are areas in which it does not work. Make sure you know which number to call before you need it! Then consider the phone…. do you need to dial another number to get an outside line? Many facilities would need you to call 9-911 or something similar.

E-Comm

Locally, a group called ecomm handle the 911 call system. Here’s how they describe it:

E-Comm is where your 9-1-1 comes if you live in Metro Vancouver, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD), and the Squamish and Whistler areas.

When a caller dials 9-1-1, the E-Comm call-taker asks, “do you need police, fire or ambulance?” The call-taker will also confirm for which municipality. E-Comm’s job is to then connect the caller as quickly as possible to the agency the caller has requested. The E-Comm call-taker will remain on the line with the caller until the agency answers. The entire process usually takes around 20-25 seconds.

If a caller is unsure of what service they need, the E-Comm 9-1-1 call-taker is trained to ask a few brief questions to help determine which agency is required and will connect the caller accordingly. Once connected to the agency, their dispatcher can, at any time, also contact other agencies to assist with response. For example, if the BC Ambulance Service receives a call where police presence is required, they will contact the appropriate department/detachment for assistance.

Dialing 911

Here are some other key points

  • Call 9-1-1 if you have an emergency that requires immediate action from the police, ambulance, or fire: if someone’s health, safety, or property is in jeopardy or if a crime is in progress.
  • Know your location at all times.
  • Don’t program 9-1-1 into any phone.
  • If you call 9-1-1 accidentally, stay on the line and let us know.
  • Keep your cell phone in a safe position to prevent accidental calls

Accidental calls?

Yes really. The most recent info I can find is for 2008. Within our area (as described above) there were 1,013,887 calls to 911. Of these 403,203 were non-emergency calls. That’s almost 40%

To put it another way, for every 5 calls there are 3 emergencies and 2 calls which are not.

Is granny having a heart attack? So sorry but 911 is dealing with a ‘cat in a tree situation’. Some of these calls stick in my mind… I still remember hearing of the lady who called an ambulance because she couldn’t find her slippers. Google for ‘kids call 911’ and one of the top results is about kids calling for help with math homework.

If you call by mistake, hang on the line and say so – just like you would with any other wrong number. So sorry… didn’t mean to call. If you don’t… well they have your number on caller display and you could be getting mugged, robbed, raped…? They are going to call back. They might even send the police your way to ensure you’re safe. Please tell them you are and save everyone the embarrassment.

If you want to call New Delhi, India…. it’s 011-91-11 remember the 011 first. Otherwise you will join the many thousand people who forget and just call 911-1 – you’re not going to reach family with that number, unless they work in emergency call centers.

If the lovely person calls your cell and asks what help you need… you did just call 911. Really. No, they understand you have a phone lock and a password/code/PIN. It’s just that you have that quick ‘make an emergency call’ button which bypasses all of that. Even your 4-year-old could press it… Or the keys in your pocket…. Or your backpack.

Finally, if your 4+ year-old doesn’t know what 911 is for, time you signed them up for one of our courses. Do it before the policeman arrives to check on your safety!

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at UBC Hospital as a pharmacist when not busy training safety
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One Response to Tips for Calling 911 – how to call EMS

  1. Pingback: EMS – What to say and Who arrives? | Safety un-Limited

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