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Medical emergencies: ensuring proper care

Do you know someone who lives alone? Do you know anyone who doesn't hear as well as they used to? For anyone living alone or not easily able to communicate with others, a medical emergency doesn't always mean that you'll need urgent assistance from someone else, but in the event that you are unconscious you'll need the means to help responders help you.

If you are unable to provide your medical history, medications, and allergies, who will share that information with responders?
Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

In a medical emergency paramedics rely on your ability to provide details of the events leading up to your emergency, your medical history, current medications, and allergies. This information directly dictates the type of life-saving treatment you will receive, which may include treating cardiac arrest or managing your ability to breath adequately in response to an allergic reaction.

If you are a relatively healthy person there is still a need to provide this information if you find yourself in an emergency. Calling 911 and having your home filled with paramedics and firefighters can be stressful. In a very short time there is a whirlwind of activity around you. While these responders are here to help it can be difficult to remember all the important details of your condition or what happened that caused your emergency.

Be prepared

To speak for you when you are unable – this is the purpose of the “Vial of Life.” The Vile of Life is a way of sharing with responders your important medical information when you are not able to do so. While not an actual vial, the practice of keeping a Vial of Life is as simple as sticking an envelope to your refrigerator with a list of your allergies, medications, and medical history. Doing so can alert paramedics to your allergy of a medication they may want to give you. It also may indicate the best way to treat your unconscious state, if it were due to a medical condition you listed. This same information can prevent paramedics from unnecessarily treating conditions which you live with on a daily basis and may not be the true cause of your emergency. A Vial of Life can also give an emergency contact should you be transported to the hospital.

An unconscious patient can benefit from these prepared information but also hearing impaired or those with a severe hearing deficiency. Speaking loudly to a patient or taking the time to write notes back and forth may waste valuable time and the patient may be too weak to share this information easily. Having the information readily available for responders saves time and energy that could be spent on life-saving interventions.

What to do

The Vial of Life projects is a simple method of preparation that involves completing a form with important medical history and placing two decals in or on your home to alert responders to its presence.

Go to and print the medical form. Complete the form with current and medical conditions and other information. Place the form on your refrigerator. Mark your medical form with a Vial of Life decal, place another decal on your front door.

To order free adhesive decals, donate to the Vial of Life project, or to learn more, visit:

Alex Zielinski is a volunteer firefighter in Evansville, Indiana and a full-time firefighter in Providence, Kentucky. You can follow him on Twitter @FireSafetyAZ If you enjoyed this article leave a comment or click subscribe above to receive notification of future stories. Read a previous Fire Safety article: Earthquake: Is the Midwest prepared?

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