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When and How To Activate EMS

In BLS, activating EMS is one of the most important considerations that a rescuer needs to make.  Beyond actually performing CPR, you must find a way to get the victim to definitive treatment, because the repetition of CPR for an extended time will only lead to failure.  In an emergency, you may not be thinking clearly, and you may forget the importance of EMS in your rush to help the victim.  Of course, your ability to access these professionals is going to depend on who is around you and where you are located.

Not everyone has a code in the middle of a busy restaurant.  Some have them on trips into the wilderness and some have them in other rural areas.  It is important to get EMS moving first before attempting to save the patient with BLS.  Although bystander CPR does save a great deal of lives, it is getting the paramedics with ACLS training that leads to the best results for the victim.  You need to know when to activate EMS, how to handle the situation in urban areas, and how to handle them when you are the only rescuer for miles.

When to Activate EMS

In the best case scenario, you will send someone else to activate EMS while you take care of the victim.  If you are alone, the situation becomes a little more confusing.  You should check the patient for responsiveness, breathing, and pulse.  You can even do one round of CPR before going to call EMS.  The best way to reach them is through a cellphone.  You may have one or your victim may have one.  Use it to call 911 and explain the problem to the dispatcher.  Explain what you’ve found in your assessment and that you are CPR trained.

When someone else is making the call for you, be sure to communicate with them about what you are doing to help the patient.  It makes a difference if they are breathing but have a pulse.  Other situations call for EMS, as well.  For instance, if you suspect someone is having a stroke, note the time the symptoms started, and activate EMS.  The dispatcher will help to talk you through the process of CPR and inform you of when the ambulance is scheduled to arrive.  With most cases, the ambulance arrives within minutes, and for this reason, you are better off activating EMS as soon as possible.

EMS and Urban Areas

Since the greater concentration of people live in urban areas, the relative availability of EMS should be rather good.  An ambulance crew can get to an urban area within minutes of receiving the call, and this means that ACLS is started that much sooner.  However, you can still encounter some problems activating EMS in urban areas.  First, you need to be able to tell the dispatcher where the victim is located.  If you are unfamiliar with the streets around where you are, then it will be more difficult to get the ambulance to your scene.

Another problem is traffic.  You may experience a delay in an ambulance arriving because of traffic in the streets leading to the house.  Often, firefighters and policemen will arrive before paramedics, and this is a good situation.  They are usually trained in BLS and carry AEDs.  They can help to stabilize the patient before paramedics arrive with the ACLS protocols.  Finally, you may find that the system is merely overloaded.  Although you will get first responders, it may take some time to get EMS, even in a heavily populated urban area.  The rule of thumb is to keep performing BLS, work with the first responders, and do everything possible to extend the victims life until paramedics arrive.

EMS and Remote Areas

Activating EMS in a remote area is much more difficult.  Depending on where you are, it may be difficult to explain to a dispatcher how to arrive at the victim’s location.  If you are out in the field, it may be some time before even first responders are available to you, but even rural farmhouses may experience a delay in getting help.  When you are in a remote location, you need to do CPR as well as possible and consider using rescue breaths if the time becomes lengthy.

In addition to finding the place your victim went down, EMS may be quite far from the location.  Again, this is another reason to get help as soon as possible.  Assess the patient, perform some CPR, but then call for help.  You don’t want to wait, especially in a remote area, because those responders will take longer to reach you.  Fortunately, many rural areas now have better ambulance and first responder coverage, but you still can encounter quite a few roadblocks when you are in this situation.  Call as soon as possible, start good CPR, and keep working until someone can relieve you.