How to prepare for a medical emergency

By North Whatcom Fire and Rescue firefighter Tom Kettman

If you are like most people, the thought of experiencing a medical emergency is scary, but small steps can alleviate stress and help improve care. Here is a list of the following ways you can prepare for a medical emergency:

Take a CPR/First Aid class

In an emergency, every second counts. Attending a CPR/First Aid Class helps ensure you can provide aid before an ambulance arrives. North Whatcom Fire & Rescue provides free classes each month. More information can be found on our website:

Have a clearly visible address

Regardless of the type of emergency, ensuring the house/building numbers are clearly visible day and night, from both directions, helps responders find you quickly.

Use high-contrast or reflective numbers (minimum of 4-inches tall for residential, 6-inches for commercial)

Ensure obstructions like shrubs or vehicles do not reduce visibility.

If your home is not visible, an address post must be placed at the main road. One local option for purchasing a reflective marker is at

Keep a medical information sheet

During an emergency, medical providers may ask a lot of questions. Often patients tell us, “My information is on file at the hospital.” Unfortunately, EMTs and paramedics do not have access to this information when we get to your home. Maintaining a medical information sheet is one of the best ways to ensure we can deliver the best possible care. At a minimum, include the following: full name, birthdate, allergies, prescription medications (including doses and schedules), chronic conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.), reasons for prior hospitalizations, doctor’s name and emergency contacts.

Have a plan

If you are calling an ambulance on behalf of someone else, you can help emergency crews by preparing for the ambulances arrival: lock up dogs or other pets, turn on the porch light, ensure the patient’s personal medical information is available, and move furniture out of the way to allow access for our gurney.

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