What’s the 411 on 911?

Ring Ring Ring! “911, what is your emergency?” Since childhood, we have all been taught to dial 911 in an emergency and wait for those familiar words. 911 is a free emergency phone number used to request immediate assistance from emergency services—police, fire department, and emergency medical services (EMS)—in the case of life-threatening emergencies and in-progress crimes. Calling 911 in an emergency should result in rapid help from first responders and can save lives.


What is an Emergency?

A 911 emergency is when someone needs help right away because of an injury or an immediate danger. In any situation when the health, safety, or property of an individual is compromised, a police officer, firefighter, or medical personnel’s help is needed.


In general, people are aware they should call 911 in an emergency, but they are less aware of the circumstances in which they should not call 911. Many requests to 911 do not involve true emergencies, which overloads the 911 system with non-emergency calls. Examples of a non-emergency include sprained knee, ankle, arm, minor headache, pulled muscle, controlled nosebleed, and small cuts.


Calling 911 from a Mobile Phone

According to NENA: The 9-1-1 Association, an estimated 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year. In many areas, 80% or more are from wireless devices. When calling 911 from a landline phone, the 911 system will show the address and name of that number. However, since wireless phones are mobile, they are not associated with one fixed location or address. The FCC is working to ensure wireless 911 calls are transmitted with increasingly precise location information so first responders can quickly find and assist those in need.


Know Your Location

Whether the call is placed from a landline or a cell, always tell the emergency operator the location of the emergency right away. When making a 911 call from a wireless phone, also be prepared to provide the emergency operator with your wireless phone number – if the call gets disconnected, the emergency operator can call you back. Many emergency operators currently lack the technical capability to receive texts, photos, and videos, although some 911 service centers do have texting capability.


How Paramedics Choose Where to Take You

If you need emergency medical services and an ambulance arrives, you may assume you will be taken to your nearest medical center. However, that’s not always the case. You may be routed by a coordinator tasked with distributing patients evenly between regional hospitals. In addition, a consideration for the choice of hospital is the injury or the medical problem you experienced. The paramedics will assess and recommend an appropriate facility to treat you, i.e., trauma, burn, cardiac care, or stroke centers. Most patients requesting a transfer to a specific facility do so based on health insurance concerns. You have the right to request a hospital and the ambulance will usually comply if safe to do so.


Legal Documents to Have in an Emergency

Do you know what essential documents everyone needs in case of an emergency? Completing a Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare is critical for anyone over age 18. This document allows you to determine treatment preferences as well as appoint a person you trust to make healthcare decisions for you should you become unable. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, this document is vital! It is recommended you keep a copy of this document in your vehicle’s glove box. Responders will be made aware of your wishes and know whom to contact if necessary.


A General Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Matters (GDPOA) will allow someone you trust to step in and act on your behalf should you become unable. Having a GDPOA in place will allow the practical tasks of day-to-day life to be managed even if you find yourself in a medical emergency. Your agent can pay your medical bills or communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. It’s also a smart idea to have copies of your insurance card, photo ID, and list of medications available for a quick reference.


Nobody expects a medical emergency that results in a frantic 911 call, but if you know what to do when placing the call and have your unique personal information available, the experience does not have to be chaotic. Call Hurley Elder Care Law at 404-843-0121to help you prepare your Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare and GDPOA.

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