In Taiwan and some cities in China such as Shenzhen, people hang a small board on their front gates with emergency contact numbers. “Houses carry either the names of two nearest physicians and relatives or ambulance service numbers. Some even had the nearest police station and fire control contacts,” says Dr Narendra Jena, the director of the Institute of Emergency Medicine at Madurai’s Meenakshi Mission Hospital. “The idea is to help people in an emergency.” A simple, no-cost solution for a family member or a passerby to make that crucial call.
Whether you’re alone at home and have a fall, or you’re surrounded by family and develop unexplained chest pain, it’s important to have an action (not reaction) plan for an emergency. One crucial step is to have ambulance details handy. But how do you decide on which ambulance to call, and do you need to call one at all — won’t a car do?
Common numbers to remember
- Medical Helpline 108: Was launched by the Centre in 2008. It is partnered by three players – GVK, Ziqitza and Bharat Vikas Group and has a big presence in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttarakhand, Goa, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Assam, Meghalaya, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu
- Ambulance helpline 102: operates all over India
- 1099 CATS: The Centralised Accident & Trauma Services run by Delhi Government
- 1066 Apollo Ambulance Service: all over India
- St John Ambulance in India: Works in partnership with Indian Red Cross Society in most States. Has 60,000 volunteers and a fleet of 150 vehicles. Each State has a different phone number to contact
No it won’t, feels Dr Jude Vinoth, Head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Apollo Hospital. Ambulance staff professionals are trained to save lives, he says. For instance, if a loved one has had a fall, and you’re not sure whether they’ve broken a bone, an ambulance service will have a stretcher that you are unlikely to have.
But how do you plan for an emergency? First, accept they may happen and then ask yourself some questions that will help you pick the right ambulance service. Once you’re sure about the numbers you’d like to call, it is a good idea to pin them up at a suitable place for all to access (like the fridge door) and make that quick call.
What if no one in my family has a medical history?
For non-life-threatening injuries, you can call for the Basic Life Support ambulance which provides basic necessary items like splinters, IV fluids, mild injections for fever and oxygen cylinders with a trained paramedic and driver, says Dr S C Goyal, vice chairman of Delhi-based St John Ambulance (India).
In India, there are two centralised ambulance systems running in public-private partnership. Popularly known by their helpline numbers 108 and 102, between them they have nearly 20,000 ambulances across 31 States and Union Territories.
The best option would be to call 108 that either takes you to the nearest government hospital or to a hospital you choose — that is your prerogative, says Dr G V Ramana Rao, Director – Emergency Medicine Learning Centre & Research, GVK Emergency Management & Research Institute, Hyderabad. He says 108 is the country’s largest 24X7 emergency response service that picks up calls in two rings and reaches in an average of 18 minutes. It is a toll-free number and can be reached from any landline or mobile number. The transportation and pre-hospital care are free.
What can you do as a bystander?
- Call any of the ambulance numbers and tell them your name and location.
- Provide your telephone number.
- Describe the nature of injury and number of people injured.
- Assure the injured that you have called for an ambulance.
- Never put down the phone as you will keep receiving guidance from the ambulance staff on its way.
If anyone in my family has a medical history?
If they do, you may want to stick with the hospital they consult at. For instance, if a loved one has a heart condition, the ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) ambulance is fitted with a defibrillator, transportable ventilators, additional life-saving drugs. Either a paramedic or a nurse and an attendant are on board and trained to do half the doctor’s job. Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation given in the golden hour can help to reverse the sudden cardiac arrest. “The pre-hospital treatment in medical emergencies saves at least 20 to 30 lives a year,” says Dr Jena. Do speak to your doctor about what to do in case of emergencies.
How do I know when to call the ambulance?
In any type of emergency, the timing matters. For example, for every minute a person who has stopped breathing goes without oxygen, their survival rate decreases by 10%.