A dear friend of mine has recently taken the leap from running her own bespoke textile company to answering emergency calls for London Ambulance Service.  She hand wove stunning yarn into unique fabrics and making these individual pieces into scarves, which although beautiful, as she says, never saved anyone’s life.  Being part of the ambulance service has been a dream of hers for many years and in March it became a reality.   She has since shared with me some helpful insights to pass on to you, so if you ever need to call an ambulance you are equipped to work together with the call taker to get the best possible outcome for you, the casualty and indeed the call taker.  There will be a series of blogs setting out useful tips for calling an ambulance – the first five, which are about the first couple of minutes of a call, are below –

1.       Speak clearly and at normal speed. Please don’t rattle things off super-fast.  It’s great you are confident in what you have to say, but we need time to listen, process and write your information down.

2.       Please don’t shout.  We have high quality headsets and we can hear you perfectly clearly without shouting.  The louder you shout the more distorted the line gets.  If you shout it hurts our ears and we will have to ask you to repeat things, which wastes precious time.


3.       Know the location of the emergency before you call.  The very first thing we will ask you is the address of the emergency.  If  we don’t know where you are we can’t get help to you however much we want to.  If you know the door number, road name and post code we would reach through the telephone and give you a gold star if we could. It has surprised me how many people have said ‘I don’t know where I am, just hurry up and send an ambulance’!  Be prepared to spell unusual names or words with varied spellings such as Clark and Clarke, we must spell addresses perfectly for the mapping system to confirm the location.  Without a confirmed location we cannot send an ambulance.

4.       If the casualty is outside, look for a nearby door number or shop.  Ask or send someone to find out the road name if you don’t know it, saying you are outside Tesco in West London or a chemist in Tunbridge Wells will not help!  If you are near a junction, give us the names of the roads that form the junction, anything that will help us to pinpoint your exact location.  It might sound odd, but the casualty must stay at the given location; we cannot send a vehicle to a moving casualty.

5.       Put a crying baby down.  It may sound harsh, but we can’t hear anything you say if a baby is crying inches away from your ‘phone.  Please give the baby to another responsible adult or lie them down in a safe place for the few minutes it takes to make the call.  Our ear drums will thank you and we will be able to get help to your baby much faster.



Although you are likely to be in a very stressful situation when you are calling an ambulance, knowing what is expected from you should make the process easier. 

Please remember the call taker is there to help you and will support you in any way they can. 

In the next blog I will lay out some ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ with regard to the telephone you use to make the call and dispel some urban myths, so watch out for the next installment!

AuthorSam Palmer