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When to Call 911 and "Good Samaritan" Laws

Updated: Nov 29, 2020

The operative advice is when in doubt, call 911. Here are specific tips as to what to do, depending on the person's state. If a person is conscious and responsive ...

  • Stay with them. Check often to make sure they are still conscious and responsive.

  • Make certain that they stay on their side, not their back. See the Bacchus Maneuver.

  • Before you touch them, tell them exactly what you are going to do. Be aware of any signs of aggression. Do not ridicule, judge, threaten, or try to counsel them.

  • Remain calm and be firm. Avoid communicating feelings of anxiety or anger.

  • Keep them quiet and comfortable. If they are in the sun, move them to the shade. If cold, move them to a warm place and offer a blanket.

  • Don't give them food, drink, or medication of any kind.

  • Remember that only time will sober up a person under the influence. Walking, showering, or drinking coffee will not help and may actually cause harm.

If the person is unconscious, semi-conscious, or unresponsive ...

Check for these symptoms of alcohol or drug overdose:

  • Cannot be roused and is unresponsive to your voice, shaking, or pinching their skin.

  • Skin is cold, clammy, pale, bluish, and/or blotchy.

  • Breathing is slow - eight or fewer breaths per minute.

  • Experience lapses in breathing - more than 10 seconds between breaths.

  • Exhibit mental confusion, stupor, or coma.

  • Have seizures, convulsions, or rigid spasms.|

  • Vomit while asleep or unconscious and do not awaken.

If any of these symptoms of overdose exist, call 911 for help, and while waiting for emergency personnel:

  • Gently turn them onto their side and into the Bacchus Maneuver.

  • Don't leave them alone at any time and be prepared to administer CPR.

  • Remember that there is a chance that a person who has passed out may not ever regain consciousness and there is a serious risk that death could occur.

Calling for Help - "911 Good Samaritan Laws" Often people, especially minors, fear the consequences of their own arrest when seeking emergency medical assistance for a friend or family member who may be in danger. In the United States, when someone needs medical assistance, a call for help occurs less than 50% of the time.

California. In California, an underage person who calls 911 to report possible alcohol

poisoning and cooperates with paramedics and law enforcement once they arrive will be immune from prosecution, under minor in possession laws, provided that:

  • The underage person called 911 to report that they or another person was in need of medical assistance due to alcohol consumption;

  • The underage person was the first person to call 911;

  • The underage person remained on the scene until medical assistance arrived; and

  • The underage person cooperated with those who were providing medical assistance and any on-scene law enforcement officers.

Note that there may be no such immunity for adults who knowingly supply alcohol to minors. However, an adult 21 years of age or older who meets the above requirements should not be held liable under social host ordinances. Colorado. Colorado has similar laws to those in California. According to the Colorado Revised Statutes, (C.R.S. 18-13-122), an underage person is immune from arrest and

prosecution under this section if he or she establishes the following:

  • The underage person called 911 and reported in good faith that another underage person was in need of medical assistance due to alcohol or marijuana consumption;

  • The underage person who called 911 provided his or her name to the 911 operator;

  • The underage person was the first person to make the 911 report; and

  • The underage person who made the 911 call remained on the scene with the underage person in need of medical assistance until assistance arrived and cooperated with medical assistance or law enforcement personnel on the scene

Please share this information with your teens, including those who are about to start or return to college. It may save a life!

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