How to call for help when you don’t know where you are

By Steve ThorntonPosted on


Note: The following is a verbatim transcript of the emergency phone call I made minutes after Joe and Ruth were in a collision. An automatic recording app on my phone caught it. I discovered the recording after returning to Canada.

(Recorded message:) You have dialed one-one-one emergency. Your call is being connected.

(Sound of me breathing heavily)

(A male voice:)—This is the one-one-one operator. Do you need fire, the ambulance, or the police?

“Ambulance, uh, possibly police, a motorcycle crash. I don’t know where I am, though.”

Sorry, you’re breaking up there sir.

“Yes, ambulance, motorcycle crash.”

I’ll put you through to ambulance. You’re still breaking up a bit.



(To myself:) “There’s nobody down there, is there?”

(Female voice:) Ambulance. What is the exact address of the emergency?

“I’m sorry, I do not know. Umm . . .”

I’m sorry, sir, the reception’s umm, cutting you off. What was the exact address of the emergency?

“I don’t know. I’m on a country road. There’s been a motorcycle crash. Uh, I think one serious injury, probably not life threatening . . .”

Okay, what road are you on?

“I don’t … Joe do—” (Shouting now to someone else:) “Hey! What road are we on?” (To phone:) “South West Bank Road.”

South West Bank Road?

“West Bank Ro—?”

West Bank Road? West Bank Road, sir? What tow—

(Sound of somebody speaking to me, giving me the address.)

“Five eight seven West Bank Road.”

What town or city?

(Me shouting:) “What city?” (To phone:) “Motueka, I think.”


“I think so, yes.”

Hello, you there sir? The reception is quite bad, it is cutting you out. If you can hear me, just confirming that it is five eight seven Motueka River West Bank Road, in the Motueka Valley?


Okay, what’s the phone number you’re calling from?

(I give her my number.)

Okay, tell me exactly what happened?

“Motorcycle crash, head-on, with a car.”

Motorcycle versus car?


Are you with the patient now?


How many people are hurt?

“One woman was hurt. I think it’s her leg. The driver of the motorcycle was relatively unhurt—just a minute (Off phone: Do you know exactly where we are? Sound of voice responding.) Okay, so yeah, five eight seven West Bank Road, Motueka.”

Okay, okay. So just confirming there is one patient?

“One patient. (Off phone:) Joe, you’re not a patient, right?”

(Simultaneously:) How old is she, can you tell me approximately?


How old is she, can you tell me approximately?

“Uh, early fifties?”

Okay, I’m going to ask you some questions while the help is being arranged.


Is she awake?

“Yes, she’s conscious.”

And is she breathing?

“Yes, she’s breathing. She’s uh, moving her arms. She’s talking—”

Sorry, what was tha—Sorry, your phone cut you out again, sir. Is she breathing?


Okay, um. Okay . . . and that was five eight seven Motueka River West Bank Road in Motueka Valley.


Okay. Are there chemicals—are there hazards involved?



“Uh, maybe gas, uh, something leaking from the motorcycle. (To bystanders:) Is that oil?”

Is anyone trapped?


Was anyone thrown from the vehicle?

“No—well, yes, a passenger was thrown from the motorcycle, she’s lying on the road, she’s wearing a helmet.”

Does she—does everyone appear to be completely awake?

“She does.”

Okay. Are there . . . okay. Is there any serious bleeding?

“She doesn’t appear to be bleeding, but . . .” (Sound of voices.)

Okay. Stay on the—okay, I’m organizing help for you now. Stay on the line and I’ll tell you exactly what to do next.


Okay, do not splint any injuries, and do not move her unless she’s in danger, and for everyone’s safety tell any bystanders to stand well clear of approaching traffic. If it’s safe to do so turn on flashing hazard lights, okay?


Reassure her that help is being arranged.


From now on don’t let her have anything to eat or drink. It might make her sick or cause further problems. Don’t move her unless it’s absolutely necessary. Tell her to be still and wait for help to arrive.


Did you catch her name?

“Uh, yeah, her name is Ruth, uh, I’m sorry I don’t remember the last name. Her husband is—”

What was her first name?


Ruth. And what was your name?

“I’m Steve. Thornton is my last name. Her husband is with her and he’s a paramedic.”

Ah, okay, that’s very good then. I need to hang up now to take another call but the help has been arranged. If she becomes likely to vomit, quickly turn her on her side, and if she gets worse in any way please call us back immediately for further instructions.

“Will do. Thank you.”

Happy to help. Take care.


Bye bye.


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