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What to Do While You Wait

Do not hang up until the 911 operator tells you to do so. While waiting for emergency care, you should do the following:

  • If the person is not breathing, begin CPR, but only if you have been trained to do so.
  • If there is a wound, begin first aid. (See instructions below.)
  • Stay calm and reassure the person that help is on the way.
  • Make the person as comfortable as possible.
  • Gather the person's medications to give to the emergency team.
  • Move furniture to allow easy access to the person.
  • Recall the facts: How long has the person been sick? How long has he been unconscious? When and how did the accident happen?
  • Have someone at the door to let in the emergency personnel and guide them to the person.

When a Wound Requires Emergency Care

If a person has a wound, you may be able to administer first aid at home and then seek emergency treatment. Or you may need to call 911 now.

The American College of Emergency Physicians Foundation says you should begin first aid and then seek emergency care if the wound:

  • Does not stop bleeding after a few minutes of applying direct pressure
  • Is gaping, jagged, or potentially disfiguring
  • Is long or deep
  • Is a cut over a joint
  • Is on the face
  • Is an animal or human bite
  • Is over a possible broken bone
  • Has an object embedded in it
  • Is a puncture wound
  • Was caused by a metal object

You should call 911 immediately if

  • Bleeding does not slow after a few minutes of steady, direct pressure.
  • The person shows signs of shock such as weak pulse, rapid or shallow breathing, or cold, clammy skin.
  • The person has trouble breathing because the cut is on the neck or chest.
  • A deep cut to the abdomen causes moderate to severe pain.
  • There is a cut to the eyeball.
  • A finger or other extremity is cut off or partially cut off.