Emergency vs. non-emergency, understanding the difference

  • Published
  • By Heidi Hunt
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Flashing warning lights and sirens are signs for drivers to pull over so medical personnel can transport patients to receive emergency care.

The 509th Medical Operations Squadron ambulance service is available 24-hours-a-day to respond to on-base illnesses and injuries and is accessed through 9-1-1.

"We have one ambulance with two members trained in basic life support who respond to medical emergencies for the entire base," said Staff Sgt. Jacob Rosko, interim NCO in charge 509th MDOS ambulance service.

Should a medical emergency arise, the only number people need to call is 9-1-1, according to Rosko. Calling other numbers will cause a significant delay in treatment.

"If someone on base calls from a cell phone, they will be connected to Johnson County dispatcher." Rosko said. "Callers should be clear that the emergency is on base and they will be immediately transferred to a Whiteman Air Force Base dispatcher.

"The 509th MDOS ambulance service is used for emergencies only and is not to be used as a transport service to the base clinic," Rosko said. "We only transport patients to Western Missouri Medical Center in Warrensburg."

Understanding the difference between an emergency and a non-emergency can help patients receive the proper medical treatment in a timely manner and can make a crucial difference between life and death.

Emergency calls
An emergency is defined as an acute illness or injury that may pose a threat to life, limb or eye-sight; results in unreasonable pain and suffering; or requires immediate care or attention to ensure the best possible recovery. Examples include: cardiac arrest, broken and/or severed limbs, severe or uncontrolled bleeding, severe pain, head, neck or spine injuries, shortness of breath, a motor vehicle accident, falls, pregnancy issues and infant or child emergencies.

Non-emergency calls
Patients with non-urgent problems may be referred to the Family Health clinic or Pediatric Clinic for evaluation and treatment. Examples of a non-emergency include: sprained knee, ankle, arm, minor headache, pulled muscle, controlled nose bleed and small cuts.

"Once our only ambulance and crew is engaged, we cannot abandon a patient," Rosko said. "If we respond to a non-emergency such as a sprained ankle and a cardiac arrest or another true emergency occurs at the same time, we must remain with the non-emergency patient.

"If this happens, we must then request for Johnson County Ambulance District to be dispatched which may take 15 to 20 minutes to get on base to make patient contact," Rosko added. "When this happens valuable minutes are lost and treatment for the patient is delayed."

"If it is a non-emergency and you think you should be seen by a health care provider, use your personal vehicle if capable, call a friend, family member, supervisor or first sergeant," Rosko said.

Team Whiteman is asked to understand the importance of knowing the difference between an emergency and non-emergency, but when in doubt, call 9-1-1. Any abuse of the 9-1-1 system for non-emergencies will be reported to the wing commander.