When to Call 911

Emergencies happen when we least expect them, and they require fast thinking and action. Different emergencies call for different approaches. Here is some information that may help you be prepared.

A 911 emergency is a situation in which someone needs immediate help because he or she is injured or in danger. So, if you’ve had a car accident and someone is hurt, obviously you’ll call 911. But, if your car just broke down and you need a tow truck, you’ll need to call your parents or a tow truck.

Call 911 if there’s a fire, if someone you are babysitting, or someone you are with has had an accident, or if you see a crime being committed. Don’t hesitate to call 911 if a friend has taken drugs or has done something else that’s life threatening. Even if you’re afraid you’ll get your friend in trouble, calling could mean the difference between life and death.

When you call 911, the emergency dispatch operator will probably ask you several important questions such as:

  • What is the emergency?
  • Where are you? or Where do you live?
  • Who needs help?
  • Who is with you?

You may feel a sense of panic when dealing with an emergency, but you should try to stay calm and in control. The operator needs the answers to questions to decide what type of emergency workers should be sent and where to send them. Give the operator all the relevant information you can about what the emergency is, and how it happened.

If someone is unconscious or has stopped breathing, the 911 operator may give you instructions for immediate help that you can provide, such as giving CPR or clearing the person’s breathing passage.

By staying calm and speaking slowly and clearly, the 911 operator will be able to understand you. Another important thing to remember is that you should stay on the phone – and not hang up – until the operator tells you it is okay to do so. That way, you can be sure the operator has all of the information that’s necessary to get to you as quickly as possible. It’s easy to assume that operators can trace where a call is coming from, but that’s not always the case.

If you dial 911 by mistake, don’t just hang up. In areas where dispatchers can trace the call, you could find a fire truck or police car in your driveway. Tell the operator if you misdialed so he or she knows there is no real emergency.

If you’re ever in doubt about whether a situation is a true emergency, it’s better to call 911 and let the operator make that decision. That’s a better choice than not getting help to someone who really needs it very quickly.


Do you have questions about Emergency Services at Palomar Health in North San Diego County?  Visit Our Services for more information, Contact Us or Find our Location(s).

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