The Basics of Calling 911 During an Emergency

“What’s your emergency?” If you’ve ever heard someone ask this on the other end of a phone, then you’ve dealt with calling 911 for an incident like a car accident or medical emergency. If you’ve never called 911 or a similar emergency number, the idea of having to calmly explain yourself during a dangerous or tense situation might seem daunting. But by knowing a bit about the 911 process in advance, you can prepare for the worst.

When Should You Call 911?

When dealing with a potential emergency, the first thing to consider is whether the incident warrants a 911 call. Some events, like a heart attack or fire, obviously require an immediate call for help. Other situations, like an alligator spotted in your driveway or a neighbor’s obnoxious music, might not. For less-pressing matters, call a non-emergency line instead of 911. While the response might not be as rapid, someone can guide you through your situation or direct you to the appropriate agency, like animal control.

Of course, if you are unsure if a situation warrants a 911 call, you should go ahead and call. It’s better to be safe!

Some other medical symptoms that warrant a 911 call include:

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Breathing problems
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Coughing up blood
  • A head or spinal injury
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • A sudden change in mental status, like sudden confusion
  • Suicidal or homicidal thoughts

You should also call 911 if you are involved in a car accident, even if there are only minor injuries. A 911 call puts the accident on record, and can be used later during legal or insurance disputes. Other non-medical reasons to call 911 include in-progress crimes, suspicious people or vehicles, domestic disturbances, and people with weapons.

Tips for a Successful Emergency Call

Once you’ve made the quick decision to make the call, there are some simple steps you can follow to make sure the call goes smoothly:

  • Stay calm. Take deep breaths, talk slowly, and do your best to calmly and coherently explain your situation.
  • Know your location. If you can, give the address of where the emergency is happening. If you don’t know, look for the nearest street signs or landmarks. Be as clear and specific as possible, since this will help emergency personnel find you.
  • Follow all the call operator’s directions. They might give you guidance on how to handle the situation, or ask you to stay on the line until help arrives. The person on the other end is trained to deal with emergencies, and following their directions can make a huge difference.

Having to call 911 is not something anyone looks forward to.  But when the worst happens, knowing how to calmly and quickly handle the call can make a huge difference.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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