EMS Tips

911 = A “Real” emergency

What happens when I dial 911?

Your call to 911 goes to a central location at Police Headquarters. If you have a fire or medical emergency, the PFD will come on the line and help you. Remember, give as much information as you can and stay calm.

What is a medical emergency?

A medical emergency is when you need help immediately and the emergency you are calling for is life-threatening. Remember, We always respond when you call. However, if a medic unit is on a minor call for help, then they must complete that call before they are available for your serious call.

Which units do you send when I call and why?

Many Philadelphia firefighters are trained EMTs that staff the fire trucks. There are 40 ALS Medic Units in the Fire Department that are staffed paramedics. Paramedics provide a higher level of care than the EMTs. In some cases, the EMTs/FireFighters will arrive first if the Medic unit is coming from further away.

Do medical doctors work for the Fire Department?

A licensed medical doctor is the Director of the Emergency Medical Services, who works for the Fire Department. In addition, paramedics have direct, 24-hour telephone contact with doctors, and often call to get medical advice for your medical emergency treatment.

What happens if I feel sick?

Remember, use 911 when you have a medical emergency that requires you to get to a hospital immediately. If your symptoms are not serious, try to have a friend or relative with a car drive you to your doctor’s office or clinic.

If the Medic Unit takes me to a hospital, can I pick the hospital and do I get treated faster?

NO. You are taken to the closest hospital for your life-threatening condition. Hospitals treat the most serious patients first. A heart attack victim or gunshot victim will be treated before a patient with a less serious condition. It doesn’t matter whether you come by a Fire Department Medic Unit, private auto or walk-in.

Is there a fee if a Philadelphia Fire Department Medic Unit takes me to the hospital?

YES. If you have a serious medical emergency and a Medic Unit transports you to the hospital, your health insurance will pay most, if not all, of the cost. If you do not have medical insurance, you will be responsible for all of the cost.

If my medical condition is not serious, is there an ambulance that can take me to the hospital?

Yes, there are many ambulance companies located throughout the city. The Fire Department does not dispatch them and we cannot call them for you. They can be called by you or your family and can be used for non-emergency transportation. They will take you to the hospital you choose.

Some examples of life-threatening emergencies:

  1. Fire!
  2. Severe Chest Pain!
  3. Difficulty Breathing!
  4. Gunshot wounds, knife wounds!
  5. Stroke!