How to Call for an Ambulance during an Emergency

What to Do While Waiting for Ambulance Help

Directions on how to stay calm and provide basic first aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Alexander Mitchell
Alexander Mitchell

New York, United States

Staying Calm (You, then Everyone Else)

It is essential to remain calm while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. Panic can cause people to act irrationally. We don't want to create unnecessary harm to anyone.

Similar to an in-flight emergency where a parent would put his or her own mask before assisting the child, we want to be absolutely calm before taking steps to help others.

Panic can make it harder to assess the situation and make good decisions, and it can also cause additional stress for the person who needs medical help.

Consider applying these tips for staying calm in emergencies: such as

  • taking deep breaths,
  • counting to ten, or
  • focusing on a specific task (like calling for help).

Assist Where Possible, Assist if Trained

Below is a sequence of steps to follow for someone who wishes to render help. The list is sequenced from the highest to the lowest priority.

  1. "I should keep calm and remain calm" - if you have an Apple Watch, use it to monitor your heart rate, keeping it low and steady at under 80 beats per minute.
  2. "Can I help medically?" - if you are trained medically or in first aid, step in and do that.
  3. "Can I help physically?" - if you are able to, control the crowd. Restrict the immediate area and instruct on-lookers to leave, or get the assistance of on-premise security.
  4. "Is it better if I do nothing?" - Otherwise, do nothing; don't create more work for others who can help. This simply means waiting patiently for the ambulance to arrive.
People should only do what they feel comfortable with and what they are trained to do, and that they should never put themselves or the injured/ill person in danger.

Administering Basic First Aid

Perform immediate first aid while waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Based on our experience in an ambulance responding to calls and cases, there are 3 critical early intervention many paramedics hoped first aiders would do:

  1. Stop continuous bleeds with a tourniquet
  2. Perform chest thrusts to expel and dislodge foreign object in the airway of a choking person
  3. Start CPR to maintain circulation to the heart and brain as per the Red Cross Chain of Survival
Red Cross Chain of Survival

Stop Continuous Bleeds

Blood loss can cause death if the casualty loses a large quantity. Though the number of litre-loss depends on the age and physical size (height, weight), it is consensus of ambulance medics that if first aid is done to slow the blood loss or stop entirely, it would be best.

Why? Blood carries oxygen and the bodily organs need it.

And.. you can't really have effective CPR; hard and fast chest compressions will only cause more blood to be pumped out of the body, instead of helping oxygenated blood circulate.

Stop bleeds by:

  • Apply direct pressure: Use cloth, shirts or even bare hands to press on the bleeding body part
  • Use a torniquet: Tie a belt, improvise with a scarf or nametag lanyard to tie dead knots above the bleeding portion to complete constrict the veins. Stop the blood from flowing to the mangled body part.

Perform Thrusts to a Choking Person

Thrusts are basically bear hugs to the choking casualty, but you:

  • Hug from the casualty's back (you stand behind the person and hug), and you
  • Squeeze so tight that the person you’re hugging vomits

It's important to do the thrusts if you know how, and if you don't really know how (get training) or at least try. Because every second the item that's causing the choke stays where it is will mean that:

  • The casualty's airway is blocked,
  • He or she can't breathe, and i.e.,
  • He or she is suffocating to death.

Start CPR early

Bystander effect says that people are less likely to help someone in need when other people are around. They assume someone else will take care of the situation, so they don't take action themselves.

For example, if someone collapses in a crowded area, people may hesitate to perform CPR because they assume someone else will do it.

This can lead to delays in getting medical help, which can be dangerous in an emergency situation.

Early CPR can be critical in saving lives, so it's important for individuals to take action and not rely on others to do so.

Check for any additional injuries or symptoms

The injured person may be experiencing other less pressing problems.

  • Lacerations (cuts)
  • Burns (minor ones)
  • Had taken alcohol before - state how many glasses if aware

This will help you provide more accurate information to the ambulance crew when they arrive.

Gathering necessary medical information

Gather any necessary or available medical information, such as the person's medical history or a list of medications they are taking, to provide to the ambulance crew.

Sources of information:

  • Family, friends or work colleagues present
  • Patrons or employees of nearby establishments (example: the cashier may have witnessed this incident)

What information you should seek:

  • Known medical history (example: G6PD, childhood asthma, etc.)
  • Medications which may have been consumed
  • Dietary restrictions, and if the injured person has just consumed any food or drink

Ensure Ambulance Vehicle and Staff can Easily Access the Location

Clear the way and making sure there are no obstacles.

  • Set up a possible path that the ambulance medics may take to evacuate the patient.
  • Width clearance should be sufficient for the stretcher to make turns around corners.
  • For parking space, elect to use the loading bay of the building or open parking structures for unimpaired access.
  • Ensure that other vehicles are barred from entering both before or after the ambulance vehicle.
  • If vehicles travel and park in front of the ambulance, then there will be a traffic jam and hence a delay in the journey to the hospital.
  • If vehicles park behind the ambulance, they may park too close to the rear ambulance doors. The ambulance stretcher doors always swing outward. Vehicles behind the ambulance will block the access and hinder medics from loading the patient trolley into the ambulance.

Reassure, then Remove Family and Friends

The people who know the injured will be extremely concerned. Instead of improving the situation, their presence may disrupt first aiders and ambulance paramedics. Guide them away from the scene where possible.

Common Misconceptions About What to Do while Waiting for the Ambulance

Despite good intentions, many people have misconceptions about what they should do while waiting for an ambulance.

One common misconception is that they should try to move the injured to a more comfortable position. However, moving the person can cause further injury or make an existing injury worse.

Another misconception is that they should administer medication or perform complex medical procedures. Not only is this dangerous, but it can also interfere with the work of emergency responders when they arrive.

By dispelling these myths and providing accurate information, we can help people to make more informed decisions in an emergency situation.