When to call 9-1-1

San Diego County’s emergency access number for fire, police, or medical emergencies is ‘9-1-1

An emergency is any situation that requires immediate assistance from the police, fire department or ambulance. Examples include:

  • A fire
  • A crime, especially if in progress
  • A car crash, especially if someone is injured
  • A medical emergency, especially for symptoms that require immediate medical attention

If you’re not sure whether the situation is a true emergency, officials recommend calling 911 and letting the call-taker determine whether you need emergency help.

When you call 911, be prepared to answer the call-taker's questions, which may include:

  • The location of the emergency, including the street address
  • The phone number you are calling from
  • The nature of the emergency

Here are some guidelines that may help you decide if this is a real medical emergency:

A.     Is the person (or you) having difficulty breathing?

        -  Not breathing

        -  Labored breathing?

        -  Choking?

        -  Wheezing or suffering from an allergic reaction (hives, redness, facial swelling)?

        -  Is this a drowning or near-drowning?

B.     Is the person having chest pain or pressure? (Possible heart attack)

C.     Is the person having severe abdominal pain?

D.     Is the person unconscious?

        -  Was there a fall or other type of injury?

        -  Was there an unexplained episode of unconsciousness?

        -  Was there a seizure? (shaking of arms and legs accompanying the unconsciousness)

        -  Is the patient a diabetic?

E.     Is the person dizzy or lightheaded? (Possible stroke)

        -  Can the person move his/her arms and legs equally?

        -  Is the person having slurred speech or difficulty speaking or walking?

        -  Is this person confused or disoriented?

F.      Is there uncontrolled bleeding?

        -  “Pumping out” rapidly?

        -  Bleeding slowly but continuously oozing?

G.      Is this possibly a poisoning or an overdose?

        -  Did the person take too many pills or other type of medication? (Including Tylenol and aspirin)

        -  If ingestion was unintentional and person is awake and alert, Call Poison Information at 800-222-1222.

H.      Does the person appear to have a fractured or broken bone?

I.        Is the person having the worst headache of his/her life?

Remember, the call-taker's questions are important to get the right kind of help to you quickly. Be prepared to follow any instructions the call-taker gives you. Many 911 centers can tell you exactly what to do until help arrives, such as providing step-by-step instructions to aid someone who is choking or needs first aid or CPR. Do not hang up until the call-taker instructs you to do so.