Calling for Help…Life Threatening VS Non-life Threatening Situations


We sometimes see Fire Trucks and Emergency Vehicles on the Cloister streets. One of our readers asked for an explanation of the difference between Emergency 911 or Non-emergency 862-8600???

Metro Nashville comments on their Emergency Services…

Examples of situations demanding immediate attention include:

  • Reaction from a snakebite or bee sting
  • An allergic reaction of any kind
  • A seizure or convulsion
  • Jerking movements that cannot be controlled
  • Burns covering an area larger than the palm of your hand
  • Electrical burn or shock, including lightning strike
  • Severe injury or being the victim of trauma or an attack
  • Bleeding or spurting blood that you can’t stop
  • Not breathing or having difficulty breathing
  • Gasping for air or turning blue or purple
  • Choking and unable to clear the obstruction
  • Unconsciousness, fainting, not alert, or making funny noises
  • Chest pains, constricting bands, or crushing discomfort around the chest area—even if the pain stops
  • Unusual numbness, tightness, pressure, or aching pain in the chest, neck, jaw, arm, or upper back

What to Expect When You Call 9-1-1

In Metro Nashville, a professionally trained emergency call taker/dispatcher will answer your call to 9-1-1. Although the call taker is well aware of the potential for crisis and any associated anxiety you may be experiencing, you must have the composure to answer several questions about the situation and the patient’s medical status. Some of the questions help to determine the level of medical support sent to the scene—emergency service personnel and the type and number of emergency vehicles—while other questions are meant to assist you until emergency assistance arrives. Be ready to give medical information and describe any person (male, female, age, height, description of clothing) or vehicle (color, type, last direction of travel) involved in the incident.

In cases of serious medical problems, such as cardiac arrest, MNECC call takers are trained to give real-time instruction in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and life-saving first aid. When it looks like a baby may arrive earlier than anticipated, our call takers can assist you over the phone in safely delivering the infant.

All information is taken while a dispatcher simultaneously routes emergency medical service (EMS) professionals to your location. The same applies to giving emergency instructions.  Your job, as the caller, is to answer the questions as accurately  as possible and to pay particular attention to the call taker’s  instructions. Also, since an emergency situation tends to provoke a great deal of anxiety, it’s up to you to remain as calm  as possible. Do not argue. Do not lose your patience. Don’t tell the call taker to hurry. They already know that. Every question the call taker asks is important and designed to assist in the most appropriate and timely response to your emergency. The call taker will stay on the line with you as long as the situation dictates. Do not hang up until the call taker says it is okay to hang up. If the connection is lost, for whatever reason, the call taker will try to call you back.

There are other ways you, the caller, can assist. For example, if possible, you should unlock the front door to allow easy access for emergency responders, and put all pets inside a closed room. You may want to turn on the outdoor lights of the residence or                business to increase visibility. If outside and aiding a victim of an accident, try to find someone who can flag down the emergency vehicle from a safe distance as it approaches.

General 9-1-1 House Rules

  • 9-1-1 should be used for emergencies only, including serious medical problems (chest pains), life threatening situations (person with weapons), fires or crimes in progress.
  • If you are not sure, call 9-1-1.
  • Never be afraid to dial 9-1-1 because of uncertainty.
  • If you THINK you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency, call 9-1-1 immediately and let the dispatch center and other emergency service professionals help you.
  • Be ready to give medical information and describe any person (male, female, age, height, description of clothing) or vehicle (color, type, last direction of travel) involved in the incident.
  • Once help is on its way, make sure the numbers on the outside of the residence where emergency assistance is needed are clearly visible from the roadway day or night.
  • If 9-1-1 is called by mistake, do not hang up; stay on the line and tell the dispatcher that everything is all right. If you don’t, the dispatcher may assume that an emergency has occurred and send a response team to your location.

862-8600 Information

Employees at the Emergency Communications Center are responsible for answering 9-1-1 and non-emergency 862-8600 calls daily.  However, there is a clear focus on answering 9-1-1 calls first.  With this in mind, citizens should be aware that significant wait times can occur on the 8600 line at anytime.

Citizens should not hang up and dial 9-1-1 if you cannot get through on the 862-8600 lines. 9-1-1 should only be used when there is a life-threatening emergency.  If the call is not an emergency situation, the caller will be asked to hang up and call 862-8600.

The 862-8600 lines are available to report a non-emergency situation where police response is requested.  This can include reporting a minor traffic accident with no injuries, when a person discovers their car has been broken into, reporting a suspicious person in a neighborhood, and other non-emergency Police and Fire Department matters.  An easy way to remember when to use 862-8600 is to think “urgency without emergency.”

Citizens seeking general information or a Metro department phone number should contact Metro Customer Service at 3-1-1 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Metro Customer Service agents can provide fast answers about Metro agencies, their functions and what number to call for assistance.

See my Blog entry Smart 911 Can Save the Lives of Cloister Residents listed in the HEALTH Category at right

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