Keeping Your Cool When Calling 911

If you've ready any of the articles in this blog, you may have heard me harping on the fact that, in an emergency, the first step should be to call 911. Emergencies are concerning because of the lack of available resources needed to keep a casualty alive.

Emergencies don’t generally occur in a hospital fully staffed with experienced doctors and nurses with complex medical equipment and access to a broad range of pharmaceuticals.

So, we need to get the casualty to those resources as quickly and as safely possible by getting EMT’s on scene with an ambulance.

Since this may be the most important thing you do to save the life of the casualty, we need to discuss how to speak with a 911 operator in an emergency when you are likely to be a little shook up.

It’s easy to get things mixed up, rush your words, and speak incoherently when adrenaline is running full tilt.

9-1-1 - Wikipedia
911 Operators are incredibly important emergency workers who have a tough job.

Fortunately, 911 operators are well trained to extract important information from panicked callers, but to facilitate a smooth transition of information, here’s some things that might help:

  1. Scene Safety! Be absolutely sure you are safe before calling 911. Don’t be distracted by the situation and stop to pull out your phone in the middle of the street. You won’t do anybody any good if you’re hit by a car while trying to help.
  2. If you are the only person around to assist the casualty, you can activate a 911 emergency call by using the hands-free option on your smart phone. Depending on your device you can say, “Ok Google,” or “Ok Siri,” then when prompted say, “Call 911.” This will free up your hands so that you can start applying the tourniquet or managing the airway. If there is a bystander nearby, it's acceptable to direct them to call 911 for you while you break out your medical gear.
  3. Pay attention to landmarks, addresses, and intersections so that if an emergency does happen, you can quickly and efficiently relay that information to the operator. Your location is a very important detail and should be anticipated whenever possible.
  4. When you do talk with the 911 operator, speak clearly, and slowly. If you need to, take a short moment to collect yourself, take a deep breath, then begin. This may help you to think more quickly and efficiently about the right things to say. Say something similar to, “My name is Brian McLaughlin, I am located at the Northeast corner of Colfax and Wadsworth. I need an ambulance at my location for a 16-18-year-old male who was struck by a car.”
  5. Answer all questions the dispatcher might have. Most of the questions the dispatcher will ask will be in a “Yes,” “No” format. This is the most efficient way to communicate in a tense situation. If you don’t know the answer, say so. No points are awarded for random guesses.
112 (emergency telephone number) - Wikipedia
Speak clearly and think carefully about the questions the 911 Operators asks.


Things you might be asked:

  1. What are the injuries?
  2. Is the casualty alert and talking to you?
  3. Are they breathing?
  4. What is their name?
  5. Do they have any medical conditions?
  6. Was the casualty involved in a crime?

If you don’t know the answer, look around for someone who might. If there are any family members nearby, they may know the answers to those questions. You could say something like, “Ma’am, I’m on the phone with 911, do you know his name?” Or ask a cashier what the address of a nearby business is.

Be ready for whatever the Mountain throws at you with the Yellowstone Trauma Kit.


  1. B Benson on July 21, 2020 at 11:04 am

    5 – W’s
    Where (location of incident/where help is needed)
    What (what is or has happened)
    When (now or earlier)
    Who (are you / is involved)
    Weapons (what kind, who has them)

    • Brian McLaughlin on July 22, 2020 at 10:08 am

      Excellent. Thank you Mr. Benson

  2. Will Baker on July 23, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    Top of the post auto correct error “If you’ve ready any of the articles”

    On #2 If there are multiple bystanders direct someone specific to call 911. “You in the yellow sweater call 911. “

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