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What to do in an emergency requiring an ambulance

Call 9-1-1

Here are some instructions to follow when you call:

  • Stay calm.
  • Say that you need an ambulance.
  • Stay as close as possible to the person in distress.
  • Stay on the line and only hang up when told to do so.

Answer the medical dispatcher's questions and follow their instructions

The medical dispatcher will ask you the following questions to assess your needs and determine the resources required:

  • What address are we sending the ambulance to?
  • What telephone number are you calling from?
  • What happened exactly?
  • Who is the person in distress?
    • How old are they?
    • Is it a man or a woman?
  • What is the condition of the person in distress?
    • Are they conscious?
    • Are they breathing?

Answer the questions as clearly as possible so that the dispatcher can assess the seriousness of the situation and determine the priority of your call relative to all those received. Calls must be triaged, just as triage is done in a hospital emergency room.

Regardless of the reason for the 9‑1‑1 call, the ambulance will not be able to help a person if their location is not known. The emergency medical dispatcher will insist on obtaining and having you repeat, if necessary, the address of the place the ambulance has to go to.

In the event of an error or difficulty finding the place, the emergency medical dispatcher may need to contact you again quickly. Therefore, the telephone number you are calling from is important. Remember, however, that you must stay on the line with the dispatcher until they tell you to hang up.

During the call, the dispatcher will tell you what to do. Follow the immediate care instructions the dispatcher gives you over the telephone until the paramedics take over.

Wait for the ambulance

Here are some things you can do while you are waiting for the ambulance to arrive:

  • Make sure access is clear by clearing the stairs and the hall.
  • Make sure your address (house number) is clearly visible.
  • If possible, send someone to show the paramedics the way when they arrive.
  • Shut pets away.
  • Get the patient's health insurance card and hospital card out, if any.
  • Collect the patient's medication, if any.
  • Contact 9‑1‑1 again if the patient's condition changes.

What to do during a cardiac arrest

The survival rate following a cardiac arrest is higher if the following series of actions, called the chain of survival by Heart & Stroke Foundation, are performed in order:

  1. Early recognition of cardiac arrest. The person:
    • is not conscious;
    • does not respond;
    • is not breathing or is not breathing normally.
  2. Call 9‑1‑1.
  3. Early, quality cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
  4. Early defibrillation.
  5. Care by care providers involved in the pre-hospital chain of care.
  6. Post–cardiac arrest care in a hospital centre.

Last update: December 15, 2020


Information on the website in no way replaces the opinion of a health professional. If you have questions concerning your health status, consult a professional.


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