The number 999 is the official emergency telephone number in the United Kingdom, as well as in a number of other countries, including Ireland, Poland, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Macao, Bahrain, Qatar, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, and Kenya. If you find yourself in a medical emergency and you are unable to get to a hospital under your own power, never hesitate to dial 999. This is especially true if you are unable to sit in a car or likely to be delayed by rush hour traffic.
The idea behind the 999 number is a throwback to rotary dial phones. 999 is easy to remember and so a person could simply find the dial stop and rotate the dial three times. However, since the advent of cell phones, accidental 999 calls have become a problem alongside hoax calls. Many public information campaigns encourage awareness of this and promote responsible use of the number.
Symptoms that could necessitate the need to Call 999
Dialing 999 is the sensible response for a serious health emergency. In the following situations, dialing 999 would be appropriate:
- Acute congestion
Chest pain or suspicion of heart attack
- Loss of consciousness
- Accidents that result in severe injuries
- Severe allergic reactions (anaphylactic shock)
- Conditions or injuries related to pregnancy and childbirth
- Sudden and severe shortness of breath
What happens when you dial 999?
Should you need to dial 999, try to stay calm. An operator will answer and respond with, “Emergency. Which service, please?" Be as clear about your emergency and about your location as you can. In situations like car wrecks, where more than one service is needed, the operator will contact each service individually, as well as potentially redirecting the caller. When you dial 999, your call will receive top priority since it is understood that your life is in immediate danger. The first responder team that is dispatched in 999 calls usually consists of a paramedic and an emergency care assistant, both of whom are highly trained to handle a wide variety of medical emergencies from heart problems such as cardiac arrest to major trauma. They will arrive in an ambulance carrying medical equipments such as oxygen tanks, intravenous drips, spinal and traction splints, various drugs that can be used to treat diabetes, asthma, overdoses, and other acute health problems, and a defibrillator to restore one’s heartbeat if necessary. The ambulance can bring you to a hospital, but crews are well equipped and trained to perform some diagnostic tests and procedures directly on the scene.
Use 999 appropriately
Using 999 inappropriately, either as a joke or for a frivolous concern, could cost someone his or her life. Many ECC’s receive a huge volume of calls and are constantly working to provide the fastest service to those who need it most.
Many people raised in the United States of America have been taught to call 911 in emergencies, but it is not commonly used as an emergency number in UK, though it is also supported. 911 may be the beginning of non-emergency phone numbers in the UK and Ireland, and some mobile phones route 911 emergency calls to the GSM standard emergency number 112. Therefore, it is better to call 999 in an emergency. The service is also available to the hearing impaired via Textphone and the RNID “Typetalk” service. It can be reached at 18000.
Many ambulances struggle to keep up with high rates of emergency calls because many people dial 999 inappropriately. This often puts many lives at risk.
What if something goes wrong?
If you are unable to give your location after calling 999, it is likely that the emergency service operators will be able to trace your call. A landline call can be traced to a specific address. A cell phone call can be traced to a grid reference, which refers to a more general area.