Preparing For Medical Emergencies

South Metro is committed to providing resources to our community regarding medical emergencies and advance care planning. This information is meant to encourage all our citizens to get prepared now and discuss medical and life priorities with themselves as well as those they are closest to

BEFORE a medical emergency occurs.

This page discusses what level of care you need for what condition, ways to receive medical care, Advance Planing and CPR Directives, Hands Only CPR, and 988 Mental Health Line.

Private Physician vs Urgent Care vs Emergency Room

911 is ALWAYS an option, but it shouldn't always be your Option A. 

Your primary care doctor is the best place to start if you are sick.
Your doctor will know your medical history and be able to continue care more easily since you are already an established patient of theirs.

If it is after hours or an appointment with your doctor is too far away, you will save time and money by going to the urgent care instead of an emergency room for non-life threatening problems. You may have longer wait times to get treated in an ER if your problem is not life threatening. 
ER visits should be reserved for true emergencies.

In general, an emergency condition is one that can permanently impair or endanger your life.

* For any Medical Problem that is Life-Threatening–Dial 911 Immediately *

The ambulance will be able to start your care immediately and take you to the closest emergency department. 

Some symptoms that may require an ER visit include (but are not limited to):
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems, such as double vision or loss of vision
- Severe dizziness
- Broken bones or dislocated joints
- Head injuries, loss of consciousness, fainting, confusion, or seizures
- Severe abdominal pain
- Uncontrolled bleeding
- Fever over 103 degrees or fever with a rash
- Poisoning
- Mental health crisis

If you are unsure whether your condition warrants an ER vs Urgent Care visit, do not hesitate to call 911 and receive an evaluation by SMFR Paramedics. We can help you make that decision.

Ways to Receive Care 

Besides calling your Doctor's office and making an appointment for the future or calling 911 for a life-threatening emergency, here are ways you can quickly access medical personnel for assistance. 

Talk to a Doctor over Telehealth 

Telehealth — sometimes called telemedicine — lets your health care provider care for you without an in-person office visit.

Telehealth is done primarily online with internet access on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Telehealth is recommended for the following conditions: 

- Recurring conditions like migraines or urinary tract infections
- Urgent care issues like colds, coughs, and stomach aches 
- Lab test or x-ray results
- Mental health
- Skin conditions
- Prescription management
- Much more! 

Click HERE for the Basics of Telehealth

Dispatch Health

Call for an appointment today or book online and have a provider come right to your home! 

Stay home, stay safe. Let DispatchHealth come to you. Experience relief when our medical team arrives at your door.

DispatchHealth is much more than an urgent care provider, offering many of the same services as an emergency room, minus the high ER costs and wait times.

Open 7 days a week, including holidays 7 AM - 10 PM

Treating everything an urgent care can, and more:
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Flu
- Pneumonia
- Migraines
- Dehydration
- Infections
- COVID-19

The Importance of Advance Planning

Our paramedics often respond to emergencies where the patient is not capable of advocating for themselves, and family members are put in a tough situation as they are uncertain what their loved one would want in regard to their medical treatment. We want to lessen the pain of an already stressful situation by encouraging you to have these tough conversations BEFORE they are needed.

Start the conversation with the help of www.TheConversationProject.Org

Advance Directives

Advance Directives are documents that clearly state your preferences for the health care you wish to receive, or not receive. They also give someone of your choosing the authority to make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your preferences on your own when decisions must be made. South Metro Fire Rescue is committed to honoring your health care choices, but we cannot know them without these documents readily available for our first responders.
Communicating the existence of Advance Directives is just as important as filling one out, but a step often missed. * DO NOT wait until an emergency to think about and discuss your health care priorities *

Here are three main steps to help you navigate the process:
1.  Think carefully about the type of end-of-life care you want and who you would like to carry out your wishes.
2.  Discuss your preferences with those who are important to you and will honor your choices, including your healthcare provider.
3.  Document your wishes and provide copies to anyone who needs them.

COLORADO ADVANCE DIRECTIVES provides information on Medical Durable Power of Attorney, Living Will, CPR Directives, and other important documents you will potentially want as part of your Advance Directives.

CPR Directives

Colorado's MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment) outlines medical interventions the patient requests or refuses if something happens and they are unable to verbalize their preferences in that moment. First responders typically encounter this situation in the event of a cardiac arrest - A patient is not breathing and has no heartbeat.

First responders are required to attempt resuscitation in virtually all patients unless they have been instructed by the patient not to do so. 

What is CPR

According to the CDC, more than 356,000 people have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in the United States every year, and older adults have a higher risk for cardiac arrest. CPR – or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation – is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating.
Immediate CPR can double or triple the chances of survival after cardiac arrest, but people who survive CPR can also have:
- Brain injury
- Injury to internal organs
- Psychological distress, like anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression

The October 2023 National Council on Aging blog post, Advance Directives: What Are They and When Should You Create One? highlights the importance of making decisions based on your unique factors:

"Depending on your age and overall health, you absolutely may want your medical team to provide it if your heart stops. On the other hand, CPR can be a particularly damaging intervention for people with age- or illness-related frailty."

Talk to your physician about your priorities while you are healthy so they can help you make the right decisions regarding your end-of-life care. South Metro wants to encourage our community to make educated decisions about their medical preferences so we can be confident that our care is exactly what the patient would have wanted. CDC Cardiac Arrest Statistics

Talk to your physician about your priorities while you are healthy so they can help you make the right decisions regarding your end-of-life care.

Battery Backup Power Systems for Life-Sustaining Medical Equipment

Colorado Medicaid members who utilize life-sustaining medical equipment can apply for a battery backup power system to power their devices during an emergency. Click here to learn more. 

Hands-Only CPR

Out of Hospital Cardiac Arrests most often occurs in private homes (73.4%).

If performed immediately, CPR can double or triple the chance of survival from an out of hospital cardiac arrest.

Learn Hands-Only CPR by watching a video provided by the American Heart Association. 


File of Life Magnets

This file, when kept updated, is a priceless resource for first responders should they respond to an emergency in your home. This information aids them in their medical assessment and treatment, and can even be brought to the hospital for seamless continued care

Keep this FILE OF LIFE magnet on your refrigerator or on your main bathroom mirror/medicine cabinet if you prefer.

To order File of Life Magnets through South Metro, use the link below. 

988 - We are here to help. 

988 is Colorado’s mental health and substance use help line that offers free, confidential support 24/7 through call-, text-, or chat-based support. People can connect with a trained 988 care specialist to get support when they are experiencing emotional distress or struggling with mental, behavioral health, or substance use challenges. People can call for themselves or for a person they are concerned about. 

How much, or how little, people share when they contact 988 is entirely up to them.

Once connected, the 988 care specialist will:
1. Listen to what the person is going through and how it is affecting them. 
2. Provide the person with personalized and confidential support
3. Ask the person if they can connect them with additional resources or support in their community. 

For more information, follow this link to the
Colorado's Behavioral Health Administration

Help Us Help You. 

Communicate your medical priorities in the midst of a medical emergency by having the hard conversations, filling out the required paperwork, and making sure it is readily available for first responders.