Have you ever had to call 999? If not, do you worry you would panic so much you wouldn't be able to best help the person in need? It's certainly something that plays on my mind, and because of that, we thought a blog explaining when to call 999 and what happens when you call 999 would be invaluable. We are lucky at Mini First Aid to have some fabulous franchisees who have vast experience in the medical field, and we are thrilled that franchise owner Emily has been able to share her experience as a Community First Responder for East Midlands Ambulance Service. This blog is a MUST READ for everyone, and  includes tips on preparing for the arrival of the ambulance crew, and what information to give on the initial 999 call in order to get the best care for the casualty.


Call 999 in a medical emergency. This is when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk. Medical emergencies can include:

·     loss of consciousness

·     an acute confused state

·     fits that aren't stopping

·     chest pain

·     breathing difficulties

·     severe bleeding that can't be stopped

·     severe allergic reactions

·     severe burns or scalds


If it's not a life-threatening emergency and you or the person you're with doesn't need immediate medical attention, please consider other options before dialling 999. For example:

·     self care at home

·     calling NHS 111

·     speaking to a pharmacist

·     going to your local NHS walk-in centre

·     going to your local urgent care centre or your local minor injuries unit

·     making your own way to your local A&E department

·     visiting or calling your GP


Choosing the best service for your needs will ensure the ambulance service is able to respond to the people who need help the most.

It’s also worth noting that arriving by ambulance doesn’t mean you will be seen any quicker by the hospital’s accident and emergency teams. You will be assessed on arrival and prioritised based on clinical need.


It’s not always an ambulance crew who are the first to arrive at the scene in response to a 999 call either!

Community First Responder schemes operate in many local communities around the country, and members volunteer their time to respond to emergency calls in their local area. It may be that they can get there more quickly than an ambulance crew as they live closeby, or perhaps it’s a life threatening emergency and they may be able to assist the crew by attending and lending a hand.

Just over a year ago, I decided to become a Community First Responder (CFR) myself so that I could use the skills and knowledge I’d developed as a Mini First Aid trainer to help members of my local community and also to support my local ambulance service, East Midlands Ambulance Service (EMAS). I was fortunate to recently be invited to visit the Emergency Operations Centre in Nottingham where 999 calls are handled so I could better understand how the whole system operates. Watching the call handlers and ambulance dispatch teams in action was mind boggling and fascinating in equal measure, and they do a truly amazing job in a very fast paced and pressurised environment!


What happens in the call centre when a 999 call is received?

The call handler first of all establishes the address where help is required, and they then ask a series of questions about the patient’s condition to decide whether an ambulance needs to be dispatched first of all. If an ambulance is necessary, there are different response times depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. If it’s a category 1 call such as in the case of a life threatening emergency, the target time for the ambulance to arrive with the patient is 8 minutes. In some cases, the call handler may also decide to pass the call to a nurse or paramedic so that they can then assess the patient further and “triage” the call, which means deciding how urgent the patient’s need is.


What are the most common 999 calls made for babies and children?

Choking, seizures and trauma resulting from a fall or an accident.


What advice would you give to anyone making a 999 call that would help the emergency services to respond as quickly as possible?

1) Downloading the What3Words app on your phone is strongly recommended - it can be an invaluable app to have downloaded on your phone in the event of an emergency where you're unsure of your exact location e.g. if you were involved in a car accident on an unfamiliar road at night time or injured while walking in a rural area or in the middle of a large park. It pinpoints your precise location to within 3 metres and identifies this location with 3 random words which are displayed on the screen. This "code" can then be passed onto the emergency call handler allowing the emergency services to respond to the emergency much more easily, and without unnecessary delays. 

2)  If you're at home, use a home phone rather than a mobile phone if possible as your address is automatically logged on the system when they answer your call, and it saves the call handler having to ask you for the address when the call is answered.

3)  If you do use a mobile phone, state the address where help is required immediately before going into detail about the reason for the call.

4)  Try to stay calm and listen to any questions the call handler asks you and answer them clearly, as this will enable them to send help to you as quickly as possible.


What advice would you give people to prepare for the arrival of the ambulance crew? 

1)  Tell the call handler if access to the property isn’t straightforward e.g. first floor flat accessed via a stairwell around the back or house is at the end of an unlit lane which may be difficult to spot in the dark etc.

2)  Ensuring your house number is clearly visible from the street/road is helpful and consider placing a light over it to help illuminate it too.

3)  If it’s dark, turn on any outside lights to help the crew on arrival.

4)  Get someone to watch out for the crew so they can let them in without delay.

5)  Lock pets into another room separately from the patient.



We really hope you never have to make that call, but that if you do, you now feel a little more prepared. All the best, the Mini First Aid Team 


Click here to browse our first aid kits and children’s books including "The Mini Adventures of Freddie", a fantastic story that teaches kids how to make a 999 call in an emergency

Click here to register your interest in becoming a Mini First Aid trainer and we will be in touch with more details. 

Click here to find your local Mini First Aid class.