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What happens when you call 999 for ambulance assistance?

When calling 999, the first person you speak to is a telephone exchange operator who will connect the call to the Yorkshire Ambulance Service (YAS) 999 Emergency Operations Centre.

The operator will then speak with a YAS call-taker in the ambulance 999 Emergency Operations Centre and pass on the telephone number you are calling from. Call-taker in comms centre

You will then be transferred to the call-taker and be asked to provide the telephone number you are calling from, the address you want the ambulance to go to and the reason you are calling. 

As soon as these three pieces of information are obtained an ambulance response will be sent to the patient’s location. At this point the telephone advisor will say:

I’m organising help for you now, stay on the line and I’ll tell you exactly what to do next. The next questions I ask will not delay any help.

The call taker will then ask you a series of carefully structured questions to determine the exact nature of the problem and will enter this information onto a computer. Please answer these questions as best you can.

You may be asked:

  • are you with the patient now?
  • how many people are hurt/sick? 
  • the patient's age? (if you do not know give an estimate) 
  • male or female? 
  • is he/she conscious? 
  • is he/she breathing?

Computer software then uses this information to determine the priority of the call which is then categorised.

Depending on the nature of the call, the call taker will either tell you about the assistance that will be provided and end the call, or stay on the line to offer practical help and advice where necessary. This may be instructions on how to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or other lifesaving techniques.

View a flowchart on what happens when you call 999 and the different responses.

What you can do before help arrives?

Before help arrives, you can help us by doing the following:

  • If you are in the street, stay with the patient until help arrives. 
  • Call us back if the patient’s condition changes. 
  • Call us again if your location changes. 
  • If you are calling from home or work, ask someone to open the doors and signal where the ambulance staff are needed. 
  • Lock away any family pets. 
  • If you can, write down the patient’s GP details and collect any medication that they are taking. 
  • Tell us if the patient has any known allergies. 
  • Stay calm - our staff are there to help. Violence or threatening behaviour aimed at them will not be tolerated and could delay help getting to the patient.