Who needs instructions for dialing 911? Well, just about everybody.
We make nearly 240 million "911" calls every year in the USA. That's a lot of emergencies. Fortunately, 911 dispatchers and call takers are highly trained to provide assistance for all types of situations. However, there are things we can do to make 911 calls more effective so that we can help arriving as quickly as possible:
Understand when to call and when not to call 911. Is a person hurt or in danger? Is it an emergency situation where a law enforcement officer, firefighter or medical help is needed? If you’re not sure, go ahead and call 911. The dispatcher will determine if emergency assistance is needed. However, there are some common scenarios that don’t warrant a 911 call, such as when someone needs information (call 211 instead) or is experiencing a power outage or has any other type of non-emergency situation (to complain about the neighbor's dog barking).
Don’t hang up, even if you called by mistake. If you didn’t mean to call 911, stay on the line and let them know that you called by accident. If you called on purpose, allow the call taker to ask all questions that are needed before ending the call.
Stay calm and answer questions as best as possible. During an emergency, you might feel panicked or unsure of what’s going on. Try to remain calm and answer any questions, even if they don’t seem relevant to you at the moment.
Know where you are. If you’re calling from a wireless phone, your call might be routed to a 911 center that doesn’t service the area you’re from which you are actually calling. It is important to provide an accurate address of the emergency. If you don’t know the exact location, try to describe buildings and street signs or other identifying landmarks – and be prepared to provide the city or county that you’re currently in.
Be sure your address is easily seen. Help emergency responders find you in your home by posting your address at your driveway entrance and on your house. Make sure it can be seen in the dark by using a light or something reflective. Valuable time can be lost if first responders cannot easily find you.
Knowing how to deal with an emergency is an important skill. If you would like to improve your emergency skills, take a CPR and Basic First Aid class with us!
Kristi Karren is an Authorized Instructor, an Instructor Trainer and co-owner of CardioCare CPR Training and Certification LLC, located in Satellite Beach, Florida. She earned a Bachelor's degree in Youth Agency Administration and Recreation Management from the College of Physical Education at Brigham Young University. A mother of four, Kristi has been an active leader of youth agencies for nearly 30 years, frequently teaching (and sometimes administering) First Aid and CPR.