How to Call for an Ambulance during an Emergency

How to Make an Emergency Call

Learn how to make an emergency call and what information to provide to the dispatcher, including your location and the nature of the emergency.

Alexander Mitchell
Alexander Mitchell

New York, United States

Finding the Correct Emergency Number to Dial

To reach emergency services, call the corresponding number for the country you are in.

  • United States: 911
  • United Kingdom: 999
  • Other possible numbers: 119, 995
If you do not remember or do not know what is the number for the ambulance, just call 911. Most countries redirect 911 calls to the police. The dispatcher will still take your medical emergency call and send the ambulance your way.

What to Say to the Phone Operator

Providing basic information

It's essential to remain calm and provide the dispatcher with basic information about the emergency.

  • location: use street names, postal codes, landmarks or name of the nearest building.
  • level of the building you are in: level 16, basement B2.
  • nature of the emergency: chest pain, severe bleeding, fall from a high place, etc.
The ambulance crew (not the phone operator) may call you back if they cannot precisely locate you.

How to speak

On the call, the ambulance dispatcher wants to find out as much info from the caller within the shortest period of time.

So, the caller should:

  • speak clearly,
  • communicate calmly, and
  • to listen carefully to the dispatcher's instructions
Say things slowly if you have to. Take a few more microseconds; it is better than causing miscommunication or having the dispatcher make you repeat because the words weren't articulated clearly the first time round.

Describing Details of Emergency

Callers will be advised to describe the nature of the emergency so that ambulance paramedics are notified before they arrive on scene.

Non-exhaustive examples of details include:

  • Patient has allergy to peanuts, and had consumed ice cream with toppings.
  • Medication (inhaler) was administered by the patient's son, but the 2 puffs did not relieve the breathing difficulty symptoms.
  • You are a bystander who stopped in the shoulder of the highway and called for an ambulance as you witnessed a 5-car chain collision. (Traffic police will be activated to control congestion and aid in removing road hazards.)
Roadside accidents introduce a new element of traffic danger to everyone present.

Describe as Much as Possible

Telling us the details are extremely useful from the paramedics' point of view.

We can prepare our equipment in advance so we don't waste time prep-ing. If it's a heart issue, we'll bring our cardiac monitor. If it's choking, we're mentally prepared to do chest compressions if Hemlich or Chest Thrust fails to expel the foreign body.

Keep Your Phone with You and Switch On the Ringer

  • Make sure your phone is in your line of sight.
  • Make sure your phone is not on mute or on vibrate (turn on the ringer / ring tone)
  • Keep the battery charged
The ambulance crew may call you back or message you with further instructions, suggestions, recomendations or questions.
Ambulance staff giving directions to the caller so that airway is open and monitored before they arrive on scene to manage the patient.