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Knowing when to call 911 is very important and could save the life of you or someone you love. Sometimes, the need to call 911 is obvious; a car accident, fire, or severe injury for example. Sometimes it is not. Listed below are some signs and symptoms of life-threatening medical emergencies that people sometimes don't recognize. If you or someone you know experience any of these signs and symptoms, call 911 immediately.

If you live in Lehigh County, you can now text our 9-1-1 Center.  Ideally, people should still call 9-1-1, because texting can take longer to receive, and dispatchers can gather information more quickly over the phone.  

Tips for Texting 9-1-1

  • If you cross into an area without 911 texting capabilities, a 911 text will likely bounce back without going through.  Fortunately for residents of our service area, our neighboring counties do have 9-1-1 Texting.

  • Limit text to 160 characters.

  • Avoid Slang or abbreviations

  • Include the location of the emergency and be ready to provide more information when dispatchers text back.

  • If possible (and safe to do so), call 9-1-1 rather than text.

Cardiac Arrest

Loss of consciousness and no or abnormal breathing are the signs of cardiac arrest. The best chance for survival is for 911 to be called as soon as the event happens, CPR to be started immediately, and an AED used as soon as available.

Heart Attack

Chest Pain or Discomfort – The sensation associated with a heart-attack or other serious medical emergency is not always what a patient expects. Any pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arms, chest, or abdomen should be evaluated at a hospital emergency department. The best way to access this care is by calling 911 immediately. Trouble Breathing or Shortness of Breath: Any type of abnormal breathing is a sign of a serious medical emergency, sometimes a heart attack. EMS should be summoned immediately by calling 911.  Nausea, Lightheadedness, and / or Breaking out in a Cold Sweat: These symptoms can indicate a potential life-threatening emergency, even a heart attack. Some people who suffer a heart attack may only experience these symptoms and never have chest pain at all. Do not delay, call 911 right away if you are unsure.


Any of the following signs and symptoms can be indicative of a stroke. Any delay in emergency care for a stroke patient can reduce the chances of a successful recovery. The fastest way to receive emergency care is to call 911.


  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg

  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking

  • Sudden trouble seeing

  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance.

Remember, there are many appropriate reasons to call 911. The list above is only a short summary of a few of the signs and symptoms that are sometimes overlooked. People waste precious time deciding if they should or should not call. Remember, when in doubt, call 911 for any emergency.


The Emergency Medical Services System is a system designed to save lives. 911 dispatchers are trained to send the appropriate help and provide instructions for life-saving interventions before responders arrive. Ambulance crews and other responders are equipped with advanced knowledge and skills to detect and begin treating life-threatening emergencies. Emergency Departments are ready at a moment's notice for almost any problem. All of these people work together to give the victim of serious injury or illness the best chance for survival. But none of them can work if 911 is never called. You are a vital link in the EMS system. When in doubt, call 911.

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