University of Vermont AAHS

Iíve Fallen and I Canít Get Up!

by
Rusty Lowe
Emergency Medical Technician
Birmingham, Alabama
Executive Director, American Medical Equestrian Association

 [reproduced from Spring 2002 Caution:Horses]

Everyone remembers the television commercials from a few years ago when Mrs. Fletcher has fallen, she presses her alarm pendant hanging around her neck and help is on the way.  Donít you wish it were that easy when you fell from your horse!  Due to the location and remoteness of most barns and equine facilities, calling for emergency help can be a disaster if you are not familiar with what to do. 

When calling from home (if you live in an urban area), most of the time you just have to dial 911 and when the operators answers you state the nature of the problem and confirm your address.  They may choose to keep you on the line and give pre-arrival instructions or tell you that help is on the way.  Enhanced 911 makes this all possible by giving public safety agencies the technology to have your address and phone number displayed on a screen in front of the emergency operator (dispatcher) as soon as you place the call.  This saves valuable time. 

If you are in a rural area, the placement of the 911 call can be more difficult.  More information may have to be given as far as the address, directions and location on the farm or property.  Just because help arrives at the address does not mean they know where you are 3 miles into the woods.   Or, if you are not familiar with where you are at a strange location, you may not be able to give directions to the dispatcher.  Cellular phone technology is improving, but still can not specifically tell the dispatcher your exact address. 

Pre-planning is always the key.  Call 911 from your barn and see who answers.  This insures that your 911 service is connected to right agency.  More than likely they will have you call back on a non-emergency number to discuss the procedure.  If you are not connecting to the proper agency, assistance will be given to transfer 911 service to the proper agency.   Ask the dispatcher that you are talking with to tell you what information they need in an emergency to facilitate the response.  Remember that they are the ones telling the emergency crews how to get there, so their understanding of location is of paramount importance. 

Remain as calm as possible. Know the physical address of the property where you are located.  It may be easier to write the address and simple directions on a card to keep with you or near the phone.  In a stressful emergency situation, you will be surprised what you may forget.  Hopefully, you can assign someone to direct the responders to the location of the emergency once they arrive on the property.  Be prepared to tell them as much information about the accident as you can.  The more information obtained allows the dispatcher to determine what type and how much help is needed.  A broken ankle and a cardiac arrest obviously do not get the same response! 

Stay on the line until you are told to hang up.  You may be given instructions of emergency procedures to perform until professional help arrives or you may be able to answer additional questions regarding directions.  Another good idea is to invite the local emergency crews out for a tour of the property so that they are more familiar with the layout and access.   Be prepared and plan ahead in case help is needed. 

A sample 911 call might go something like this:

911:  Anywhere 911, do you have an emergency?

Caller:  Yes, I have a young man that has fallen from a horse at 1234 Anywhere Farm Rd.

911:  Ok, what type of injuries does the man have?

Caller:  It appears that he has broken his leg, but otherwise he looks good.

911:  Is he conscious and breathing?

Caller:  Yes, he is.

911:  Where on the farm is he?

Caller:  He is in a paddock near the barn.  I will have someone at the farm entrance to show you where he is.

911:  Ok, help is on the way and your address is 1234 Anywhere Farm Rd. and the phone number is 555-5555, correct?

Caller:  Thatís correct. 

911:  While help is on the way, is there anyone with the victim that knows first aid? 

Caller:  A registered nurse friend is with him and holding him still. 

911:  Help should arrive shortly.  It is o.k. to hang-up.  Call us back if his condition worsens. 

Caller:  Thanks.

A simple, short phone call has given the responders all the information they need to send help.  Usually, while you are talking to an emergency dispatcher, another dispatcher is viewing the information and sending help simultaneously.  Donít think that while you are being questioned further that there is a delay in sending emergency help.  Cool, calm communications with 911 can obtain help quickly and efficiently.  Remember to plan ahead, let the 911 staff lead the conversation and tell you when to hang up.  Please be safe. 

Mrs. Fletcher, help is on the way!


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