By Robert W. Seltzer, BSEE, EFO, MPA, Smithfield Fire Dept. Chief
Do you have a medical emergency or not? It can sometimes be difficult to determine if a situation requires emergency care. Generally speaking, it is always better to err on the side of caution and go to a hospital if you think there is a possibility of a medical emergency.
Some examples of medical emergencies are:
Chest pain accompanied by sweating, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, radiating pain that moves to the arm or neck, dizziness, or feeling that your heart is beating irregularly or too fast
Broken or displaced bones
Suddenly not being able to walk, speak, or move a portion of your body
Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing
Bleeding that will not stop (including nosebleeds)
Loss of consciousness
Head or spine injuries
Sudden dizziness, weakness, or change in vision
Sudden severe pain
Suicidal or homicidal feelings
If you are fairly certain that symptoms are not life-threatening, you can always try calling your family doctor for advice, or visiting an urgent care center in lieu of a hospital.
If you think your situation requires emergency care, you should always call 911. If you are unable to call 911 yourself, try to find someone to call on your behalf.
If you are speaking with a 911 operator, remember to breath calmly and evenly, and explain your situation as clearly as you can. They are there to help you, but they also have to be able to understand what is going on.
Once you contact 911, your call will be transferred to our fire department dispatch office. The dispatcher will ask a few questions such as what the problem is, the correct address, and any other information pertinent to your emergency.
Fire apparatus, emergency medical apparatus, or both will then respond to your aid to assist with your medical emergency.