Image of an ambulance


It seems simple. Dial 999/112*, give your address and wait for the ambulance. If only!

Calling for an ambulance can be a difficult experience, especially if the situation is stressful or someone you know is injured. 

I hope you never have to dial those three digits, but if you do, remember these simple things:

Try to speak clearly

Remember the operator can’t see the situation. They are relying solely on what you tell them, speaking clearly and explaining the situation will help them greatly. Try and give clear and concise answers to the questions they ask.

Know the location

Whilst calls from landlines and public phone boxes can normally be traced by the ambulance service, calls from mobile phones cannot be pinpointed. Try and give the exact location using landmarks and local knowledge if you can.

Following on from this, if possible then always send someone to flag down and meet the ambulance.

Answer questions as best you can

The operator will ask you for your telephone number. This is so that if the line is disconnected they can call you back. They will also ask you for your address and the nature of the emergency.

Then, the operator will go through a list of questions to find out information about the casualty. These questions will include things like “Are they conscious?” and “Are they breathing?”. It’s important that you give the correct information as best you can. If you don’t know the answer, then say so. Answering these questions will not delay the ambulance.

Unlike the films, 999 calls can take time. Be patient with the operator… they are trying their best to help you.

The questions they ask are important as they help the operator assess the severity of the call and send the right level of emergency help.

(For those interested, the system used to categorise calls is called ‘Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System’ or AMPDS for short)

Follow the instructions

The operator is trained to give simple first aid instructions over the phone (such as how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, on someone who isn’t breathing). Even if you haven’t done any first aid training you can still follow these instructions to help the casualty. Remember, it’s far better to do something than nothing.

Stay with the patient

Always stay with the patient in case their condition changes (for example, they stop breathing or become unconscious). If this happens it’s important that you call 999 again and update the operator.

Staying calm and understanding how to call for help in an emergency situation can save lives.

Knowing basic first aid can save lives. It can also take some time for ambulances to reach critically ill patients, especially in heavy traffic or poor weather conditions. In these situations, knowing lifesaving skills could make all the difference.

*112 is the emergency number for Europe. Dialing 112 anywhere in the Europe Union will put you through to the local emergency services