December 26, 2001
American Heart Association Advises
Consumers to 'Hang Up' on Some Wireless Carriers
Not All Cell Phones Connect Caller to 9-1-1. Important Safety Questions
Should Be Asked Before Purchasing A Cell Phone
- Are you buying a cell phone for a loved one this holiday season? The
American Heart Association is advising consumers to make sure the wireless
carrier they are considering has addressed safety concerns before purchasing
cell phones. Most Americans assume that they can use their cell phone in an
emergency. However, many wireless carriers have ignored Federal
Communications Commission deadlines to install readily available technology
that will allow a 9-1-1 call to access the local emergency medical system.
"Unfortunately, many cell phone companies are not properly hooked up to
9-1-1 systems," said Mike Midiri of Springfield who is president of the
Illinois chapter of the National Emergency Numbers Association. "That means
that if you dial 9-1-1 in an emergency, there's a chance you will not be
able to reach an area ambulance company or fire station. Some wireless
carriers connect you to an answering service rather than emergency
authorities and others may drop your call altogether."
Even in those instances when you're able to reach the appropriate 9-1-1
authorities, there's a strong chance that the operator answering the phone
will not be able to pinpoint the location of your call or receive your call
back phone number.
The American Heart Association urges consumers to call 9-1-1 in the case of
a medical emergency such as heart attack, cardiac arrest or stroke. Many
times, callers are not able to tell an operator where they are or exactly
what is wrong. For instance, in the case of stroke, a person's disability
may make it hard to speak or understand questions.
Two basic safety questions should be asked when purchasing a cell phone:
1. Does the carrier I am considering provide wireless 9-1-1 service? Not
all companies will provide a wireless 9-1-1 connection in your area.
Make sure the one you're buying does!
2. Is the cell phone company providing enhanced wireless service? Enhanced
service, which is needed to provide the 9-1-1 operator with information
about where your call is originating, requires technological upgrades
the wireless carrier may not have made in your area.
"And if you're simply not sure whether the cell phone you're buying will get
you through to 9-1-1, ask the sales person to call 9-1-1 from their
demonstration phone and see where it gets you. If you get through to a local
9-1-1 center, let the operator know you were testing the phone, thank them
and hang up. Don't waste the operator's time. However, if your call doesn't
go through or goes to an answering service rather than the 9-1-1 call
center, you should probably "hang up" on that wireless carrier and take your
business somewhere else," said Mark Peysakhovich, director of advocacy for
the American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate.
Every second counts when dealing with a heart attack, cardiac arrest or
stroke. And calling 9-1-1 is almost always the fastest way to get lifesaving
treatment. Emergency medical services staff can begin treatment when they
arrive -- up to an hour sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car.
The warning signs of a heart attack include:
-- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center
of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and
comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing,
fullness or pain.
-- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain
or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
-- Shortness of breath. This feeling often comes along with chest
discomfort. But it can occur before the chest discomfort.
-- Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or
The warning signs of stroke are:
-- Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one
side of the body
-- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
-- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
-- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
-- Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.