Understanding our 911 system can make all the difference in a medical emergency.
A medical emergency is something you can’t manage at home, a walk-in clinic, or with your family doctor.
Examples of medical emergencies include:
- Chest pain or tightness.
- Choking or difficulty breathing.
- Sudden and severe headache, vision problems, weakness, numbness, or dizziness.
- Sudden trouble speaking or tingling in your face, arm, or leg.
- A fracture or break in a long bone such as an arm or leg.
- A wound that needs stitches.
- A child with diarrhea and vomiting who will not eat or drink.
Non-emergency situations are minor illnesses or injuries that don’t require immediate help such as:
- Ongoing (chronic) aches and pains.
- Flu-like symptoms, mild COVID-19, and common colds.
- Minor cuts.
- Routine visits to the hospital.
- Broken fingers or toes.
If you’re experiencing a non-emergency and think you should be seen by a doctor, here’s what you can do:
- Call your family doctor or health care practitioner.
- Call 811 to reach Health Connect Ontario (formerly Telehealth Ontario).
- Go to a walk-in clinic.
- Visit 211 central to find a health care provider.
- Ask a family member or friend to drive you to the hospital.
If you’re not sure how serious your health concern is, call 911.
Calling 911 doesn’t mean you’ll get faster care once you reach the hospital. Emergency room staff decide who needs to be seen first based on their illness or injury. It does not matter if you arrive by ambulance or by car.
Do not call 911 just to get a ride to the hospital. This ties up emergency lines and paramedics, preventing them from potentially saving a life.
Learn more about the 911 service.
Peel paramedics may ask you to sit in the emergency room if you’re well enough instead of keeping you on their stretcher or may take you to the Peel Memorial Urgent Care Centre in Brampton. Learn about the Fit2Sit pilot program.
Paramedics complete an ambulance call report each time you're under their care. Here's how to get the details of your emergency.
The 911 call-taker will ask if you need Police, Fire, or Ambulance. If you say Ambulance, you’ll be transferred to an ambulance communications officer.
The communications officer will ask you several questions. Stay calm, listen to the questions they’re asking you, and answer them the best you can. The communications officer is a highly trained professional who will help and instruct you while paramedics are on the way.
You’ll be asked exactly what happened. If someone’s in a life-threatening condition, they’ll send paramedics to your home while the communications officer continues to gather information.
In some cases, the communications officer will give you instructions on how to help the patient while paramedics are on their way. This may include CPR or how to use an EpiPen.
If your call is not life-threatening, but still requires paramedics, the time it takes for them to arrive will depend on how many other calls are waiting, along with the location and availability of paramedics. The communications officer cannot give you an estimated time of arrival.
While you wait for paramedics to arrive, the communications officer will call you back every 30 to 60 minutes to check in on you.
If your condition changes, or you decide to drive to the hospital on your own, you will need to call 911 and inform the communications officer.
When talking to the Ambulance Communications Officer
Try not to panic. Every question you’re asked is important to get the patient the best and fastest help. Listen carefully to the questions and answer as calmly and completely as possible.
Do not hang up. There may be times when the communications officer pauses to update the paramedics. The communications officer will return to the phone as quickly as possible.
It’s helpful if you can do the following while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
Outside your home
- Turn on your outside lights so your house number and front door are visible.
- Remove cars from your driveway if you’re not caring for the patient. Put away items that may get in the way, such as bicycles or a garden hose.
- Shovel a path through the snow so the paramedics can bring the stretcher to your front door.
- Salt the path, front porch, and steps.
- Have someone stand outside your home to flag down the paramedics. This will help them locate your house right away.
Inside your home
- Make sure your front door is open. Have someone stand at the door to meet the paramedics.
- Clear the path to the patient. Remove items such as shoes or small rugs from the floor, steps, and around the front door.
- 1 or 2 people can stay with the patient if the patient can’t speak for themselves. Ask others in your home to go to another room.
- Put pets in a different room.
- Do not smoke or vape.
Patient’s personal items and medication
- Print and complete an updated medical information card for the patient.
- Get the patient’s Ontario Health Card (OHIP card).
- Pack a bag for the patient that includes:
- Any medication they will need to take while at the hospital.
- Clothing and shoes for them to wear home from the hospital.
- Their mobile phone if they’re well enough to use it. They’ll need their phone to call you to pick them up from the hospital.
- A mobile phone charger.
The time it takes for paramedics to arrive depends on how serious your medical condition is.
If you call 911:
- With a life-threatening medical emergency, you’ll receive help right away.
- With a less-serious medical condition, you may wait longer for paramedics to arrive.
While you’re waiting, the Ambulance Communications Officer will phone you regularly to check in on you.
No matter your medical condition, paramedics will always arrive to help you.
In November 2022, Peel switched to a more efficient ambulance dispatch system, designed to prioritize the most urgent calls. The Medical Priority Dispatch System improves how Peel paramedics respond to 911 calls when someone’s life is in danger.
The Medical Priority Dispatch System is supported by decades of research and medical evidence. It’s already used in Toronto, Niagara and in 52 countries across the world.
In Ontario you’ll be charged $45 if you’re taken to a hospital by ambulance.
Many insurance policies cover this charge. There are some exceptions to this fee. Refer to Ambulance Services Billing for details.
This bill comes from the hospital. Peel Regional Paramedic Services does not receive any part of this fee. If you have questions about your ambulance service bill, please contact the hospital that sent it to you.