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How to Report a Medical Emergency

The quick and proper response to a medical emergency can make the difference between a difficult recovery or death, and one where the patient recovers fully from their accident. Knowing a few simple steps to follow can help stop the problem and keep it from getting worse until help arrives.

The best way to respond to a medical emergency is to have appropriate training beforehand, so you know what to do when emergencies occur. Consider taking CPR or first-aid classes; they are offered at the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or through many community groups. It doesn't take long, and the information is invaluable.

If you come upon a medical emergency, first make sure the area around the patient is safe for you to enter; you don't want whatever befell the patient to happen to you! Then, find out if the person is awake and can tell you what the problem is. Most often, they will tell you what happened (or it will be apparent), and you can then call 9-1-1 and tell them. If the patient is unconscious, FIRST ascertain if the patient is breathing. Look at their chest to see if it rising and falling, listen for the sounds of breathing, and feel the air moving on your cheek or the back of your hand. If the person is NOT BREATHING, this is a life-threatening problem that must be corrected immediately. If you know CPR or how to do mouth-to-mouth respiration, DO IT, and have a bystander call 9-1-1. If you do not, call 9-1-1 and the call-taker will tell you how. This is the one thing that can save a life if you do it soon enough after the accident or illness strikes.

In the vast majority of incidents, however, the person is breathing and may or may not be conscious. Immediately dial 9-1-1 and give them the location, the nature of the problem as best you can determine, and whether or not the person is conscious (awake) and breathing. If you know anything of what happened beforehand (such as a fall, an injury, or being hit by a car), also give that information to the call-taker. STAY ON THE LINE, the call-taker will tell you what you can do to help the patient until help arrives.


If you find someone who has been injured, DON'T MOVE THEM! This includes injuries from falls, sports, car accidents, etc.

Cover the patient with a blanket, jacket, or something that will keep them warm (even in summer!). This will help prevent shock.

If the person is bleeding, take a clean, dry cloth and place it over the wound. Apply direct, firm pressure (not too much) to the wound site to stem the flow of blood. Once you place the cloth, do NOT remove it for any reason, even to check and see if the bleeding stopped. If it begins to soak through with blood, place another cloth on top of the first.



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