Making a triple zero (000) call for an ambulance is usually going to be a stressful and difficult experience. Taking a little time now to read about what happens when you make the call might make a big difference if you actually need to do it.
I’m not sure if I should call an ambulance for this….
It is important to realise that ambulances are only for emergencies or conditions where you cannot physically transport an unwell person due to injury or illness.
If it is NOT an emergency, you will not be seen in the emergency department any quicker if you arrive by ambulance.
ALL arriving patients are Triaged and seen in order of medical priority.
In 2016-17 Australian ambulance services attended 3.5 million incidents. Of these 1.1 million, or approximately 37%, were classified as emergencies.
Here are some examples of emergencies that will require an ambulance (via NSW Ambulance). But remember, there are instances where a persons condition is not life threatening but it is still appropriate to call an ambulance for transport to hospital. If unsure, it’s better to call.
- chest pain or chest tightness
- sudden onset of weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg
- breathing difficulties
- uncontrollable bleeding
- sudden collapse or unexplained fall
- unexplained fitting in adults
- injury from a major car accident
- falling from a great height
- serious assault including stabbing or shooting
- severe burns, particularly in young children
- infants that are fitting or have an ongoing fever
I’m not far from the hospital. Wouldn’t it be quicker just to drive to the emergency department?
If it is a medical emergency the answer is a definite NO.
- Control centre officers may give you important instructions on treatment you can commence immediately.
- Ambulance response times to emergencies are usually very quick (minutes).
Life saving interventions and treatments will be commenced by paramedics as soon as they arrive. There may be a significant delay to treatment if you attempt to drive them yourself.
- In some cases moving a victim can cause more harm and/or great discomfort.
- If the victim deteriorates during transport you may find yourself in a world of trouble.
I’ve never called Triple Zero (000). What will I need to do?
The first thing to do is take a deep breath and relax as much as you can.
The ambulance operator will ask a series of questions.
Try to keep your information short and clear.
You will first hear a recorded message stating: ‘You have dialled emergency Triple Zero. Your call is being connected.’ An operator will then answer. All this person will want to know is whether you need police, fire or ambulance.
You will then be connected to an ambulance controller.
The three most important things the ambulance controller is going to want to know are:
The condition of the patient(s). Give a short summary of what happened and how they are right now.
THINK AHEAD: Are they conscious? Are they breathing? Are they responding? Are they bleeding? Do they have an existing medical problem?
They will also ask for the approximate age and sex of the patient.
The location. Before making the call clarify your exact location. Give the address, as well as any identifying landmarks nearby (cross streets, property names, house colour etc). If on a road state the direction of travel (eg southbound lane) and approximate distance to the nearest town.
Any additional things that are going to impact the situation. Let the controller know if there is any potential danger at the scene (eg. Fire, aggressive bystanders, difficult access issues).
OK. Is there anything I should do now the ambulance is on its way?
If required the ambulance controller may direct you to commence immediate interventions (such as commencing CPR or applying pressure to a bleeding wound). If the patient is an adult and unconscious/unresponsive, and there is an AED nearby it should be used.
If these immediate actions are not required, try to stay with the patient (if it is safe to do so) and provide reassurance.
If you are in a house/unit and someone is available, get them to wait outside to ‘flag down’ the ambulance.
Lock away any pets.
If the patients medical history documentation and medicines are readily available try have them at hand.
If the person is talking, try to find out a little about their medical history, specifically:
- Do they have any medical problems?
- Are they allergic to any medications?
Callers with hearing or speech impairments.
Triple Zero (000) can be accessed via TTY, a text-based system familiar to those with hearing or speech impairments. Dial 106 toll-free.
- When is it OK to call an ambulance? The conversation.
- How to call Triple Zero. NSW Ambulance Service.
- Triple Zero. Australian Government advice page.