Your local emergency medical services is ready to respond to your emergency. But when should you call upon them for assistance? When should you call 911?
An ambulance is not a taxi. Knowing how to make the right call ensures proper use of limited EMS resources. Calling 911 should be for emergencies only. In Centre County, calling 800-479-0050 can make nonemergency calls. Refer to your local phone book for non-emergency numbers outside of Centre County.
You want to call 911 when:
When a person is unresponsive or unconscious for an unknown reason.
When a person has difficulty breathing, and it is unresolved with rest.
When the persons condition is life-threatening or could become life-threatening on the way to the hospital.
When moving the person could cause further harm or injury.
When the person is suspected of suffering a heart attack or stroke. Know the signs of a heart attack, which include:
Chest discomfort or pressure, typically on the left side.
Pain sometimes radiating down the left arm, through to the left shoulder, or sometimes to the jaw area.
Chest discomfort not relieved after use of nitroglycerin or rest, for patients with a history of angina.
Know the signs of a stroke, which include:
Sudden facial drooping on one side.
Sudden slurred speech or no speech at all.
Sudden weakness or paralysis of the left side or the right side of the body; typically not both.
Sudden blurred vision or headache.
A trained operator will answer the 911 call and will usually begin by asking a series of questions. Remember to remain calm and listen carefully. Answers to these questions help the operator to determine the proper location to send help, as well as the proper level of response needed to provide appropriate care.
The men and women providing emergency medical services are trained to give the most up-todate standards of care. They often will begin stabilization of the patients condition right on the scene. They have the ability to transmit the patients 12-lead EKG to the emergency department at Mount Nittany Medical Center. This enables a physician in the emergency department to interpret the EKG and determine whether a patient may be suffering a heart attack. The physician can request a Heart Alert to be paged, which assembles the cardiac catheterization team. Early activation of the cardiac catheterization team ensures that they are ready when the patient is wheeled through the door.
Upon arriving in the emergency department, patients often are triaged by a nurse. This helps to ensure that they, and all other patients in the emergency department, are provided the care necessary in the order of priority. Arriving by ambulance doesnt guarantee that the patient will automatically be given first priority. Priority is given to patients with the most acute or severe problem.
Again, learning when to appropriately call 911 can make all the difference in a patients outcome. Also, teach your child how and when to call 911. There have been instances where a child has saved a life by calling on behalf of an adult.
Rich Kelley is EMS clinical supervisor in the department of emergency medical services at Mount Nittany Medical Center. This month marks the 25th anniversary of the emergency medical services at Mount Nittany Medical Center.