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You! Call 911!

Getting Somebody to Call for Help

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Updated January 23, 2014

Step 2 in every CPR class, right after the shaking and shouting:

"You! Call 911!" Said while pointing to another student in the class.

For years, the thought process in CPR training has correctly been that nobody in the crowd is ever named Somebody. So, calling upon the phantom "Somebody" to call 911 will surely fail to generate a timely ambulance response.

The fix has always been to look up from the victim, lock eyes with a potential helper, point to them and order "You! Go call 911!"

It's best, of course, if your new CPR helper actually knows where to find a telephone -- or is sporting a Bluetooth earpiece, a sure giveaway to a cell phone hidden in a pocket.

A Good Idea -- Or Is It?

In the classroom, this action always results in a pretend call to 911 and pretend activation of the appropriate emergency response. But, everyone in the classroom is well aware of the situation. They've all met Annie (the mannequin) by now, and have probably seen her in various stages of undress. We all know this is a drill, but if your fellow student was really to summon help, he or she would certainly be capable of relaying the whys and wheres of the scenario.

The problem with all this is that unless the students in your CPR class are all members of your permanent posse, the Somebody you pick from the gathering of bystanders may or may not understand why 911 needs to be called in the first place.

I'm Helping!

911 dispatchers get some distinctly odd calls, but one story that got me thinking about the way we use our bystanders was a call from a cell phone. It went something like this:

"911. Where's the emergency?"

"It's on the corner of First and Main." (I made up the address)

"Tell me exactly what's happening."

"I don't know. Somebody told me to call 911, so I did."

Oops. In all the CPR classes I've taught, I never thought about how this particular step would translate in the world outside of the classroom. I must admit, I thought we were being rather smart by pointing to a specific person instead of blindly asking Somebody for help.

The Devil's in the Details

It seems that our designated 911 callers need a bit more information. It's still imperative to make eye contact. It's still important to point to them. But now, instead of a directive to simply call 911 you need to add a few more details.

"You! Call 911 and tell them we are doing CPR!"

"You! Call 911 and tell them there's an unconscious woman here."

"You! Call 911 and tell them there's a house on fire."

I'm sure you get the picture. The next time you find yourself ordering people around in an emergency, take a moment to make sure they know exactly what you want them to do. The victim may thank you later.

Related Video
How to Perform Hands-Only CPR
How to Do the Heimlich Maneuver
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