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Using 911 in Los Angeles County

Dialing 911. Los Angeles Almanac Image.

Emergency 9-1-1 service was first implemented in the City of Los Angeles on October 1, 1984.


For emergency FIRE calls within the CITY OF LOS ANGELES ONLY, you may also dial (800) 688-8000.


The 911 emergency telephone system is in place to assist citizens with POLICE, MEDICAL or FIRE emergencies. It should be realized that non-emergency calls to the 911 system can create delays in handling other very serious emergencies that require immediate attention.

Don't assume that the 911 center answering a call from your cell phone will be the agency closest to you. Triangulation (pinpointing a cell call by the nearest local cell tower) is relatively new and only a few locales have this technology in place. Therefore, most emergency calls from cell phones are routed to a central communications center. There, the nature and location of the incident is ascertained and the 911 caller is either transferred to the appropriate agency or the gathered data is disseminated to the agency needing to respond. When you dial 911 from a cell phone, don't blurt out a street address and then expect that the 911 operator will know which town or city you are in. Chances are they cover a wide area and will need to know your exact location. They will then transfer you to the communications center best suited to help you.

The following are guidelines for the proper use of the 911 system for FIRE and MEDICAL emergencies.

DO NOT CALL 911 FOR NON-EMERGENCY TRANSPORTATION:

Instead, use taxi cabs or call a PRIVATE AMBULANCE listed under AMBULANCE in your local telephone directory.

Examples of NON-EMERGENCY situations are:

  • MINOR illness or injury not requiring immediate help
  • Flu/common cold
  • Chronic (ongoing) aches and pain
  • Minor cuts
  • Broken fingers or toes
  • EMOTIONAL UPSETS
  • ROUTINE TRANSPORTATION to medical offices, clinics and hospitals

Remember, these are general guidelines - If there is any doubt, do not hesitate to call the paramedics.

CALL 911 FOR A LIFE-THREATENING EMERGENCY SUCH AS:

  • Breathing difficulty/shortness of breath/ breathing has stopped.
  • Choking (can't talk or breathe).
  • Constant chest pain - in adults (lasting longer than two minutes).
  • Uncontrollable bleeding / large blood loss.
  • Drowning.
  • Electrocution.
  • Drug overdose /poisoning.
  • Gunshot wounds, stabbings.
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Sudden fainting /unconsciousness
  • Convulsions / seizures (uncontrolled jerking, movements the patient may fall to the floor).
  • Severe allergic reaction (difficulty breathing / unresponsive)
  • Major burns (white or charred skin: blisters and redness over large area).
  • Someone who will not wake up, even when you shake them.
  • SEVERE injuries from:
  • Traffic accidents
  • Head Injury
  • Significant falls
  • Physical entrapment (i.e. car accident with victim trapped in the vehicle)

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICES ON 911?

911 should only be used when a true emergency exists, "POLICE", "FIRE", or "MEDICAL". Identify your call as a MEDICAL or FIRE emergency and it will be automatically transferred to the appropriate dispatch center . The dispatcher will ELECTRONICALLY RECEIVE the address and telephone number OF THE CALLER. However, if you are calling for someone else at a different location, be sure to make that known to the dispatcher.

CRITICAL INFORMATION THE DISPATCHER NEEDS TO KNOW:

  1. What's the emergency? What's wrong?
  2. Where is the emergency? Give the address, include building number, apartment number, nearest cross street. The name of the building is also helpful.
  3. Who needs help? Age/ number of people.
  4. Are they conscious? Yes or no.
  5. Are they breathing? Yes or no.

The accuracy of all telephone numbers and addresses must be verified again by the dispatcher.

DO NOT HANG UP until the 911 dispatcher tells you to do so.


Remain calm and give direct answers to the questions asked. Speak slowly and clearly. You will be asked additional questions so the dispatcher can send the right type of help. All questions are important, even if repetitive.

The dispatcher may also provide you with CRITICAL PRE-ARRIVAL INSTRUCTIONS, such as CPR (Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation) or the Heimlich Maneuver.

Understanding what happens when a 911 call is placed will help the system run more efficiently and will bring you the emergency medical service you need in the shortest possible time.

HOW TO HELP BEFORE FIRE DEPARTMENT EMERGENCY RESPONDERS ARRIVE:

  • Assure the patient that help is on the way.
  • Keep the phone line clear after the 911 call is made.
  • Direct someone to wait out front to meet the ambulance and lead the way.
  • Wave a flashlight or turn on flashers of a car or porch light if it's dark or visibility is poor.
  • Consider having an interpreter if the patient does not speak English.
  • Secure pets, especially dogs, in a separate area.
  • Have a visible address, easily readable from the street.
  • Gather or make a list of medications that the patient is using and give to emergency personnel.

START FIRST AID

  1. Apply direct pressure to the wound if the victim is bleeding.
  2. Perform the Heimlich maneuver if a choking victim can't breathe or talk.
  3. Begin CPR if the victim has no pulse and has stopped breathing.

Above material adapted from the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.