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Emergency Medical Services FAQs

When should you call 911? 
Dial 911 in the event of an emergency ONLY! When someone is badly hurt or suddenly sick and in danger, call EMS immediately. Call when someone's life is threatened, when someone faints or collapses, has persistent chest pain or difficulty breathing or is badly injured. Call if the victim needs the skills or equipment of emergency personnel. Call if moving the victims yourself could cause further injury. If unsure, DO CALL 911.

Don't Dial 911 for Non-Emergencies 
Going to a doctor's appointment, getting a scraped knee bandaged or filling a prescription do not require professional EMS assistance. Calling EMS in non-emergencies DOES tie up the system and makes it harder for emergency personnel to do their job - responding to serious emergencies.

Know What to Say When Calling 911 
Stay calm, speak clearly and stay on the phone until the emergency operator tells you to hang up. Tell the dispatcher where to find the person needing emergency care, who is hurt and sick and what happen. The dispatcher will also need to know what condition the victims is in and if any help can be given. Give the exact location of the emergency. Be prepared to answer the following questions: Is the patient awake? Is the patient breathing normally?

Know what to do until help arrives 
If the dispatcher gives you specific instructions, follow them and don't panic. Don't move someone who is injured unless they are in danger. Do try to keep them as comfortable as possible. If someone else is there with you, send them to meet the Fire Department personnel.

What can paramedics do?
Paramedic programs were instituted during the early 1970's in order to provide definitive care for cardiac patients in the pre-hospital setting.   Since that time their scope of practice has dramatically increased and paramedics now provide an array of advanced life support treatments for a variety of medical emergencies.   A partial list of treatment modalities includes 12-lead ECG interpretation, advanced airway insertion (intubation), defibrillation, intravenous and intraosseous IV insertion, needle thoracostomy, as well as administration of medications for cardiac, respiratory, diabetic, metabolic, and overdose related emergencies.

Why do fire trucks respond to medical calls?
Because fire engine companies are more prevalent than ambulances, and because the Fire Department also staffs fire engine companies with paramedics, neighborhood engine companies are dispatched to the scene to rapidly initiate advanced life support prior to arrival of the ambulance. The crews initiate advanced life support and create a well-orchestrated team effort called the medical incident command system. This is known as the First Responder System.

Why didn't I get to go to the hospital of my choice?
Paramedics are obligated to provide care pursuant to San Diego County Treatment Protocols, which, in conjunction with medical control from an assigned Base Hospital Nurse or Physician, are used to send patients to the closest, most appropriate facility.   If you need specialty medical care (such as trauma surgical services, treatment for a serious heart attack or recent stroke, or critical burns) you will be transported to the closest facility which is immediately capable of handling your specific emergency.   Additionally, in some instances hospitals cannot accept ambulance patients when their emergency rooms are full or are temporarily lacking specific diagnostic or treatment modalities (for example, a malfunctioning CAT scan).

I received a bill for my ambulance transport, what should I do? 
District Ordinance requires that we charge for all ambulance transports, however, if you have medical insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, please use the form you received on your billing to mail in your insurance information so that we may bill your insurance company. You will still be responsible for co-pays, deductibles, etc. If you do not have insurance, we accept checks, money orders, Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover Card for payment of your bill.