When to dial 999 – responding to emergencies

At some point, most people will either witness or be involved in an accident or experience a medical emergency. Knowing what to do next and who to call can potentially save lives. 

Life threatening emergencies

Call 999 in a medical emergency (someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk). Medical emergencies can be:

  • loss of consciousness
  • acute confused state and fits that are not stopping 
  • persistent, severe chest pain
  • breathing difficulties 
  • severe bleeding that cannot be stopped 
  • severe allergic reactions
  • severe burns or scalds

Call 999 immediately, if you or someone else is having a heart attack or stroke. Every second counts with these conditions. 

Also call 999, if you think someone has had a major trauma. Major trauma is often the result of a serious road traffic accident, a stabbing, a shooting, a fall from height or a serious head injury. Find out more about major trauma services. 

Non-life threatening emergencies

If it is not a life-threatening emergency and you, or the person you are with, do not need immediate medical attention, please consider other options before dialling 999:

  • self-care at home 
  • calling NHS 111 
  • talking to a pharmacist 
  • visiting or calling your GP 
  • going to a local NHS walk-in centre  
  • attending an urgent care centre or minor injuries unit 
  • making your own way to your local A&E department (arriving in an ambulance does not mean you will be seen any quicker) 

Choose the best service for your needs, as this will ensure the ambulance service is able to respond to the people who need help the most.

What happens when I call 999?

If it is a genuine emergency (someone is seriously ill or injured, and their life is at risk), call 999 and don’t panic. 

You can contact emergency services via SMS if you are deaf, hearing impaired or have a speech impediments. Visit the emergencySMS website for more information or to register your phone.

1. Answer the questions

Once you are connected to a call handler, you’ll have to answer a series of questions to establish what is wrong, such as:

  • Where are you (including the area or postcode)? 
  • What is the phone number you are calling from? 
  • Exactly what has happened? 

This will allow the operator to determine the most appropriate response as quickly as possible.

Dialling 999 does not necessarily mean that an ambulance will be dispatched. The call handler will decide what is appropriate. It may be safe enough for you to be seen elsewhere, or you can be given telephone advice by a medically trained clinical advisor. However, an ambulance will be sent to you if it is a life-threatening emergency. 

Response units that could be dispatched are:

  • an emergency ambulance 
  • rapid response vehicle or motorbike 
  • cycle response unit 
  • a community first responder 
  • combination of the above 

2. Do not hang up yet

Wait for a response from the ambulance control room as they might have further questions for you such as: 

  • age, gender and any medical history of the patient 
  • is the person awake/conscious and breathing 
  • is there any serious bleeding or chest pain 
  • details of the injury and how it happened 

The person who handles your call will let you know when they have all the information they need. You might also be instructed on how to give first aid until the ambulance arrives.

How you can assist the ambulance crew 

There are a number of things you can do to assist the ambulance service:

  • if you are in the street, stay with the patient until help arrives 
  • call back the ambulance service if the patient's condition changes 
  • call back the ambulance service if your location changes 
  • if you are calling from home or work, ask someone to open the doors and signal where the ambulance staff are needed 
  • lock away family pets 
  • if you can, write down the patient's GP details and collect any medication they are taking 
  • if you can, inform the paramedics about any allergies the patient has 
  • stay calm 

If appropriate, you may want to call the patient's doctor. The doctor may meet you at the A&E department, or call with important information about the patient.

How to provide first aid

If someone is injured in an incident, first check that you and the casualty are not in any danger. If you are, make the situation safe. When it's safe to do so, assess the casualty and dial 999 or 112 for an ambulance (if necessary). You can then carry out basic first aid.

It’s important to stay calm and then try get an overview of the situation. See if you can identify what the most serious problem is. The most obvious problem is not always the most serious. Treat the most life-threatening problems such as lack of breathing, bleeding or shock first. Check for broken bones and other injuries afterwards. Read the section about How do I know if I've broken a bone?

If a person is unconscious but is breathing and has no other life-threatening conditions, they should be placed in the recovery position.

If a person is not breathing normally after an accident, call for an ambulance and then, if you can, start CPR straight away.

Contact Us

Email: admin@weybridge-responders.co.uk

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