Calling 911 in an emergency is a significant event. Once the wheels are set in motion, the fire or police dept will descend on your peaceful neighborhood, prompting neighbors to peek through their curtains or stand in their yard while your privacy is exposed. If you are transported, the bill can be enormous. The situation is strange since you’ve never processed so much information in so little time… EVER!



The first thing is first: your neighbors most generally care about you and want you or your loved ones to be well. Neighbors will help you. I have seen neighbors offer to lock up a home, pet sit, babysit, and even give rides to the hospital to those who need it. Please don’t ask the dispatcher for a “quiet response”. Also, during an EMS event, the responders are under HIPPA rules. They should not provide, nor should you ask for specific information. Please ask if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes they will carry a message for you.

Please don’t ask the dispatcher for a “quiet response.”

No matter the time of day, there are universal response standards that require emergency services to (or not to) use lights and sirens and such. The responders are pros, and though they don’t want to wake people up or make a scene, their concern is getting to you quickly and safely.

Transporting can be expensive. It is strongly advised that you take the recommendation of EMS responders when they recommend a trip to the ER. If ambulance transport is necessary, the bill can be high. The responders know that, but your well-being is paramount. They don’t get a kickback or bonus. When there is an option, they will work to find someone to get you a ride to the hospital. You always have the option to refuse all or part of the advice you are given. The responders may have a form for you to sign in that case.

But COVID… EMS responders are a little more liberal about your visit to the hospital. During these times are more likely to consider a way for you to safely stay home. They really don’t want to walk through the ER any more than you do! They will always take great PPE precautions either way.

Understand that when you call 911 in a medical emergency, they bring the ER to YOU! If you need more advanced care, paramedics may be called to the scene. EMS always operates under doctor-approved medical directives, standards, and guidelines.

Driving yourself to the hospital may put you and others in danger if you pass out, become nauseated, cause you to speed, run red lights, etc. The same goes for transporting a victim; consider the distraction. Responders get to you quickly and may even spare a trip to the hospital for you. They know the quickest route to the hospital and even the best facility for you to go to for your particular situation.

Be sure your address is clearly visible!

  • Addressing: be sure your address is clearly visible on a contrasting background and can be seen from the main roadway even in inclement weather and at night. Curb-painted addresses are ok, but fade and can be covered by snow, so put a number on a post or on your home also.
  • Access: make sure that gates and doors are unlocked and gates are open. Also, consider securing your dog even if they are friendly.
  • Preparedness: if you or a loved one has a list of medications and a description of your medical history, it will be a great help. It can be confusing for you to sort through someone’s medications bottle by bottle. Provide any paperwork that may help, especially if someone is on a POLST or DNR order.

We don’t like to think of becoming sick or injured.

At the end of the day, these things are much easier to get through with planning. If you have questions, stop by or call your local fire department and learn about their system and capabilities. But as always, when in doubt, call 911 it’s free!

Brian M Dotson 


CPR, AED, First Aid

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