Medical Emergency Part 3: You Dialed 9-1-1. What Else Can You Do?

By Wendy Hennessy  |  6/5/2015

Do you know what to do in a medical emergency? Do you know what the signs are? In this final part of our medical emergency series, we offer some quick tips on various medical emergency symptoms and what to do after calling 9-1-1. Pay attention, act promptly and you could help save someone’s life!

No matter where you are, whether with family, friends or strangers, anyone at any time could experience a potentially life-threatening emergency. Instead of panicking (a natural human response), know that you can take concrete steps to help.

The first step is to spot the warning signs of a medical emergency:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest or upper abdominal pain or pressure
  • Fainting
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in vision
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Bleeding that won't stop
  • Severe or continuous vomiting
  • Coughing up or vomiting blood
  • Change in mental status (such as unusual behavior, confusion or difficulty waking up)
  • Suicidal or homicidal feelings

Regardless of the emergency, follow these general tips when calling for help:

  • Dial 9-1-1 for Ambulance, Fire or Police
  • Stay on the line and answer all questions
  • Follow the directions of the 9-1-1 operator
  • If possible, send someone outside to direct the ambulance


  • Call 9-1-1
  • Control bleeding by pressing on the wound with a clean cloth
  • Keep the person lying down
  • If you suspect fractures or back injury, do not move the person

Chest Pain/Heart Attack/Breathing Problems

  • Call 9-1-1
  • Keep person comfortable
  • If the person is not breathing, perform CPR if you are trained


  • Do not restrain the person
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Turn the person on side after seizure stops to allow drainage from the mouth
  • Protect the person from harm

Choking/Airway Obstructions

  • Call 9-1-1
  • If the person cannot speak or cough, perform the Heimlich maneuver if you are trained
  • If airway clears, keep the person calm until the ambulance arrives

Ingestion Poisoning

  • Give nothing by mouth
  • Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-336-6997
  • If directed, call 9-1-1

Serious Burns

  • Remove source of the burn
  • Call 9-1-1

Health Quest Community Education offers many first aid courses as well as American Heart Association CPR courses. Learn more about specific courses and how you can help save a life!