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You Called 911 for a Medical Emergency, Now What?

Posted on 08/25/2022

The individuals who answer Winter Park’s call for help are highly trained, skilled and compassionate professionals. They excel under pressure and aid in getting the right help, to the right location, as fast and safely as possible.

First, we understand a medical emergency is scary. We also know we’ve got to get to you.  During the first few moments of a 911 call, an operator will ask you a series of questions. Most are predictable – the address, what’s happening, age of patient, known conditions, are there any known threats on-scene such as large dogs or environmental hazards. Don’t worry, these questions do not delay the dispatch or arrival of help.  It’s important for 911 to collect as much information as possible. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers. 

Once on scene, EMS (emergency medical services) will ask similar questions.  Here in Winter Park, all firefighters are considered EMS personnel, meaning they are a paramedic or emergency medical technician (EMT).  After an initial assessment, personnel will determine the first steps in patient care. It is possible paramedics start an IV in the field or initiate an EKG to monitor a patient’s heart. They may start the flow of oxygen, or check blood pressure. The initial assessment helps make those next step decisions. They’ll ask about any medications the patient may be on. What happens next depends. A patient may elect to simply follow-up with a primary care physician or in fact continue on to the emergency department. 

What about lights and sirens? Yes, lights and sirens are exciting – but safety is always paramount.  In a medical emergency, the units will come to the patient with lights and sirens on, however the patient’s condition dictates whether or not that same emergency response is necessary to the hospital.  

All Winter Park units are advanced life support units, which means that both personnel and equipment on board are ready to respond to all critical emergencies. Rest assured, if the fire engine shows up before the rescue ambulance – it’s ok. They have equal qualifications to begin to render aid. In severe cases, the 911 operator will dispatch an EMS Captain. In Winter Park, an EMS Captain is always on duty and available. This is an individual with significant paramedic experience. 

Recently, Winter Park personnel sat down with some of the residents at a local assisted living facility. We noticed some of the questions presented were ones that first responders often field:  

• Why do so many of you show up? We just love you. Also, we staff up to be prepared. It’s safer to scale back on personnel, verses need to request more.

• Why does the fire department/EMS respond to my call instead of a hospital ambulance? If you make a call to 911 with an injury or emergency, first responders take you to the hospital. Hospital ambulances transport between hospitals.

• Why are paramedics on the computer when evaluating the patient? 1) They are amazing at multi-tasking. They aren’t being rude, rather inputting your medical history, medications, conditions, etc. to help with continuity of care.

• Can I request a hospital if I’m transported? Yes, you can. Winter Park Fire-Rescue will do their best to accommodate the ask, but condition/injury and other factors may lead you to the closest or most appropriate hospital. 

• Can someone ride with me in the rescue-ambulance? Yes, but up front! (You need a seatbelt and it's bumpy back there.)

• If I ride in the ambulance, do I get in the front of the line at the emergency room? No, the rescue ride doesn’t get you head of the line privilege, but your condition will be evaluated and if it is urgent, you will be seen first.

• What can I do to be prepared for first responders to arrive? If you are in a condition to converse with first responders, you can tell them where your medication is. If you have a list of the most up-to-date medications you take and your dosage, even better! If you would like a medication card, please contact WPFDPubEd@cityofwinterpark.org and we will be happy to send one to you!