Monday, May 07, 2007

How to Call 911 in Another State

At the hospital last night, I learned the answer to this question: You call 911 in your area, and they'll transfer you.

This never would have occurred to me. But other people at the hospital didn't know, either. We wound up asking a paramedic, who gave us the answer and said, "Yeah, we had to transfer a call just last week."

So I was making the process much more complicated than it had to be -- but at least now I know! Please pass this info on to anyone with far-flung friends or family.

I hadn't been at the hospital for a while because of Philly travel, and it was good to be back, especially since it was an unusually satisfying shift. I got to give two cute stuffed animals to two cute toddlers, both of whom responded by hugging the toy and beaming. What's not to love about this? I also helped a worried family in the waiting room track down the ambulance containing their relative, and provided pastoral care to a grieving widow in our Fast Track area. There isn't usually much call for my services there, but I always swing by every hour or so anyway, just in case -- and last night, it paid off.

I also got a rare compliment from the case manager. We had a patient who needed a safe place to stay for twelve hours or so, a bridge before being able to go to another safe place. (Note: this didn't involve domestic violence.) The patient had come to the hospital hoping to be admitted overnight, but wasn't sick enough for that. The patient was going to be discharged, and was very discouraged.

I said, "What about a shelter bed?"

The nurse and case manager said, "No, it's too late, they don't take people at this hour, especially on a weekend."

I said, "Why don't I just call and ask?" So I did, and lo and behold, the very pleasant person who answered the phone said that yes, they had a bed, and we could send the patient right on over.

The case manager, when I reported this news, grinned and shook my hand and said, "You can work here more often, you know." That felt really good.

An hour or so later, the charge nurse said, "Susan, there's a call for you." It was the patient, who'd been a little hesitant about going to the shelter -- never anyone's idea of a good time -- and had wound up making other arrangements, but wanted to let me know. "Will you pray with me now?"

So I prayed with the patient on the phone. It's the first time I've done that, and it felt weirdly disembodied. I'm used to paying very close attention to patients' body language and facial expressions when I pray with them, and not being able to do that felt like flying blind. But the patient thanked me very warmly, and I was moved that someone I'd spent time with had called the ED to talk to me again.

Then I called the shelter back to say that we wouldn't be needing the bed after all, and to thank the very pleasant person for being willing to offer us the bed after hours. VPP said, "If a hospital calls, or any social service agency, we'll always find room."

So I reported that to the nurse and the case manager, since it's information they needed and didn't have. Yay. I love being useful!


  1. Anonymous6:24 PM


    Thank you for your info on 911. We were recently in Nevada City, California. While walking in an older part of town we found a car that had broken windows and credit cards scattered. The car had a license plate holder from the valley. What to do. Looked bad for the driver. We tried 911 on our cells and kept getting a busy signal. Finally I walked across the street to an office and asked them to call the police.When we returned from our walk of the historic district we found the police, the car, and a very dishevelled young man we'd seen no sign of. I guess the cops knew where to find him, and I'm glad he wasn't dead. I'm also glad to know that when we're using a cell phone we need to use a 775 prefix.


  2. So very nice to know there are people like you in the world. I'd say you did much more than just be useful. You've touched some people's lives in very significant ways, I'd say.

  3. Anonymous7:23 PM

    Susan, you sound like a good person. We need more of those in the world.

    Your blog came up as the first result when I googled "how to call 911 in another state."

    I recently went through a situation where I needed to call 911 for a friend in another state, and it was a horrible experience trying to get an ambulance in Portland from Texas. Evidently, not all 911 systems are set up to transfer calls. I had to call a local hospital in portland and even then it nearly took an act of congress for them to transfer me to 911 from there. I hope this was an isolated incident, but I'm afraid in our technologically advanced world it still isn't as easy as you would think.

  4. Seriously Scared1:00 AM

    Thank you for the post. This was the first thing I clicked when I searched "How do I call 911 in another state?".

    A friend was in trouble, a friend who I only knew online but who I knew well, and s/he was having medical problems. S/he refused to call 911, so I immediately searched for some way to call 911 from my state. Luckily it didn't have to reach the stage where paramedics were needed, s/he got to feeling better. But I will remember this post if something ever comes up like this again.

  5. Felix9:50 PM

    Thank you so much for this information. Just like some other people this was the first thing i clicked on when a friend from another state I knew from playing xbox live was trying to commit suicide through pills. Although he is a good kid and we have been friends for over 6 years with out ever meeting I was pretty much his best friend so I was the only person he called to say goodbye to. He sounded like he could barley talk but I told him to hang up and call 911.

    I Somewhat panicked since I didn't know how I could do anything and I was worried he wouldn't be able to make the call or be able to tell the emergency people where he is. So I looked it up on google and this was the first link and right away I called. That was exactly an hour ago from me posting this and they told me the call he made went through and the paramedics and police were already with him.

    I probably won't come back to let anyone know if he is okay but Thank you again for this information.

  6. Seriously Ticked9:40 AM

    We just tried that and they wouldn't transfer us. Apparently the 911 in your state cares more.

  7. Anonymous12:18 AM

    Some states will not transfer. Idaho is one that won't. Said they can't. I've gotten the number for the non-emergency police number in the state in question and will keep that close and call it if needed. At least they are local and should understand when I say I am calling from another state and need their 911.

  8. Anonymous12:48 AM

    Georgia also did not transfer.

  9. Anonymous9:18 AM

    Virginia also would not transfer. They told me to call 411. 411 didn't know the number for 911 in my mom's area, so I got the number of the local hospital. They transferred me around and put me on hold until I hung up. We ended up calling my aunt who lives in the same city as my mom, and having her call 911. I never would have thought it would be that difficult.

  10. Anonymous8:30 PM

    Iowa wouldn't transfer and gave me the phone number for the sheriff's office in the county in WV where I was trying to send an ambulance. When I called the number no one answered. I plan to get the police number in case there is a next time.


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