Tips to Prepare for a Health Emergency

Are you prepared for a health emergency? Do you know where your closest hospital is? Do you have important information like doctors' numbers and other emergency contacts in an accessible place? While we hope that we'll never be in that situation, it's always best to be prepared.

Before Emergencies

Address: Make sure that your address is clear and visible from the street should emergency medical technicians need to locate your residence.

Phone: Keep a landline phone in service for emergencies. When contacting 911, the dispatcher can recognize your location right away unlike with a cell phone. In a health emergency, every second counts.

Contacts: Prepare an index card that contains your doctor’s numbers, medical information, allergies, and emergency contact information. Carry it with you at all times, even if you are not of ill health. Add the category ‘Emergency Contact’ to your cell phone so rescuers in an emergency will know just who to get a hold of in a situation.

Emergency Rooms: If there is more than one emergency room in your local area, do your homework now about where you’d like to be taken during an actual medical crisis. Not every ER is the same so do your homework and find out which ER has the best technology for medical emergencies and which hospital your physician works with. You’ll want to ensure the one you choose can help you or your family members in time of need. If you have young children, make sure you speak with your pediatrician to get a referral because not every ER is equipped to handle children’s services.

During an Emergency

Call for help. If you are having a potential stroke, heart attack, or seizure, call 911 and request an ambulance. No matter how sure you are that you can make it to the hospital, you are putting yourself and all other drivers at risk. Plus the medical responders can start treating you right away. Driving yourself means you are losing precious time that can be used to save your life.

Be honest. Tell the truth about your medical history and what happened. Don’t let embarrassment be the cause of your death or disability because you were afraid to tell the ER doctor what is really going on. Not only can you be wrongly diagnosed, you’ll likely incur the expenses of unnecessary scans, tests, and treatments.

Know When to Go

If it's not life-threatening, you have more options about when to seek medical attention. A little cut can wait until your doctor’s office opens in the morning. A more serious problem should be seen at the ER. If you are arriving at the ER of your own accord, know that the least busy times are between 3 am and 9 am. The worst times are Mondays and any day after 6pm. If you have a choice, show up first thing in the morning to seek treatment.

Patience is a virtue. The rule at the ER is the most serious medical issues get attended to first. It can be very frustrating to sit in a room full of ill-feeling people – all who think they are the sickest or the most hurt. Find some gratitude that you are not so serious that you need to be seen first. Be polite and helpful to staff and fellow patients. Average time in the waiting room of the ER is 2 hours and 40 minutes. Bring a book or a small pillow to help you relax during the wait.

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Guest's picture

It is offensive to those working in the EMS professions to refer to them as an "ambulance driver". It's just like calling an african american the n word.

Every person who responds on an EMS crew has completed rigorous training in lifesaving procedures and equipment and has passed licensing exams administered by the state. To refer to them as an ambulance driver is to imply that an ambulance and it's staff is a glorified taxi with red lights and sirens when really it is so much more.

Even at the most basic level of training: First Responder, a person must complete months of training including practice scenarios, written and practical exams, and typically field ride time so that when they roll up to your house they are more than capable of handling your emergency and saving you or your family member from an untimely death.

Ambulances and EMS responder vehicles are stocked with life saving medications and medical equipment such as breathing tubes, epi-pens, AED's, and many, many, more.

Tisha Tolar's picture

Adding to Lynn's comment, I too did not notice what I wrote and certainly meant no disrespect. My brother has been an EMT and a police officer for over 15 years, my mother is a nurse. I am the last person that would intend a condescending remark towards anyone let alone someone in the medical care field.

I appreciate the change in wording and apologize for not seeing this comment sooner. Thanks for the reminder of how important these brave citizens are to us, especially when we need them.

Lynn Truong's picture


We have changed the wording and are very sorry for the offense. It wasn't meant as a slight or disregard for the position. It was a very literal term for the person driving the ambulance who needs to locate the address. The writer did not mean it to say that was all the EMT does. Thank you for your comment. We definitely do not want to keep offending anyone without realizing it.

Guest's picture

You brought up a very good side point in this post. And that is the existence of a landline.

With MagicJacks and all the others being all the rage these days, a lot of people don't realize this point about them. You would be located much faster in an emergency if you have a traditional landline.

We stil went ahead and got our MagicJack, but this was probably the biggest sticking point. It is defintiely something worth considering.

Guest's picture

The landline is especially important if you are a single adult with small children. Fairly young children can be trained to dial 911 and say, "My mommy is sick". But to expect them to give a coherent address may be too much.

I heard that cellular 911 is routed to calling centers which may be outside the country. That's fine as long as the call isn't dropped...

I have my local police number programmed into my cell phone. I would use this as possible, using Cellular 911 as a last resort.

Guest's picture

A couple of years ago, I had a non-life threatening back problem that was suddenly complicated by the fact that I passed out (probably due to pain doctors later said). But because I passed out, no regular doctor wanted to touch me--malpractice fears in the off chance that passing out had been due to some other strange and rare problem. So we went to the ER later in the morning and waited an entire day--not fun!

In the future, I think I'd just go straight to ER if I ever passed out--perhaps calling the doctor first.

Julie Rains's picture

A quick emergency-related tip for those who don't have a traditional landline: keep an emergency phone connected to the landline connection, which should allow you to call 911 even if you don't pay for monthly service. Also, program emergency numbers into your cell phone for quick access.   

Guest's picture

I'm a Paramedic and I can't comment enough on being thorough and honest with your medical history and the current situation. There are a lot of good treatments we have available to help people, but there are many with specific contraindications or reasons to not use a drug or treatment.

If you want good care specific to your needs, then make sure that you tell the EMS or ER crews everything that is going on.

Guest's picture

Dealing with emergency situation really shakes our head that is why it is very essential to have a prepared details to assure a smooth control over the important details. Taking an utmost preparation lessen the stress and the possibility of misinformation. Communication may be the most needed factor that will cater to an accessible assistance.