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First Aid - When to Call 911

First aid is the immediate care given when a person is injured or suddenly ill.

First aid does not take the place of proper medical care provided by trained first responders and medical professionals. It involves providing temporary assistance until competent medical care is obtained, if needed, or until the chance of recovery without medical care is assured.

Persons providing first aid must know the difference between a minor injury or illness and a life-threatening one.


The following serious conditions may require a person to call 911:

  • Fainting or loss of consciousness.
  • Chest or abdominal pain or pressure.
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.
  • Bleeding that does not stop after 10-15 minutes.
  • Gaping wound with edges that do not come together.
  • Spinal injuries.
  • Severe burns.
  • Poisoning.
  • Drug overdose.
  • Severe electrical shock.

Your workplace may have specific procedures for contacting emergency assistance.

If you are responsible for dialing 911, the dispatcher will request certain information, including:

  • Your name and phone number.
  • The victim's location.
  • A description of the incident and possible injuries.
  • The number of persons needing assistance.
  • The victim's condition.

After providing this information, do not hang up the phone until the dispatcher instructs you to do so.

Source: First Aid, CPR and AED, American College of Emergency Physicians, sixth edition.

Joe Mlynek is president of Progressive Safety Services LLC, Gates Mills, OH:, and content creation expert for Safety Made Simple Inc., Olathe, KS;

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