Calling an Ambulance

The decision to call an ambulance can be a hard one and there’s sometimes confusion about the process, the costs and worries about getting into legal trouble.  This page provides information that you need to know about calling an ambulance.    


When we’re partying, things don’t always go as we intend. If you are in a party and play situation and there’s an emergency, it’s a good idea to call 000 and ask for an ambulance. 

When should I call an ambulance?   

  • When someone is unconscious and can't be woken
  • When someone is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack (chest pain; pain in left upper arm, left shoulder, jaw; shortness of breath; cold sweats.
  • When someone is experiencing symptoms of a stroke (sudden numbness to the face or limbs, particularly on one side of the body: confusion, difficulty speaking or comprehending speech).
  • When someone has cut themselves, is bleeding heavily and the bleeding cannot be stopped.
  • When someone is hurting themselves or others (or trying to).

How do I call an ambulance?   

In Australia the number for ambulance is Triple Zero (000). This number is free to call 24 hours a day, seven days a week from any landline, mobile or pay phone. You can call if you don’t have credit on your phone and you can call from a pay phone even if you don’t have a coin.

When you call, an operator will ask you if you require the Police, fire or ambulance. Ask for an ambulance. If in NSW, you will be transferred to an Ambulance NSW operator who will ask you questions about:

  • The situation,
  • Whether the person in need is conscious or not,
  • Whether the person is breathing,
  • Your location
  • The number that you are you are calling from

Stay calm. Speak slowly and clearly. Stay on the phone and follow any instructions that you are given.

Will the police come?

When drugs are involved, the fear of getting into trouble with the law is a major barrier to seeking help from an ambulance.  The ambulance staff will decide about whether Police should attend along with the ambulance.  Ambulance staff will usually only send Police with the ambulance if they are concerned for the safety of paramedics of if someone has died. This said, if drugs are involved, it is  likely that Police will be called to attend with the ambulance.

If Police attend will I be in trouble?

Paramedics are first and foremost concerned for health and wellbeing, they are not interested in legal matters.

If NSW Police are called to attend the NSW Police Force Drug Overdose Guidelines instruct officers to use their discretion and not to take action for self-use of illegal drugs or for minor possession.  These guidelines say to NSW Police, “your primary role is to ensure the safety of ambulance officers, the victim and anyone else at the scene. You are to seize any prohibited drug which is obviously present.”

While the guidelines suggest that NSW Police should not charge people for possession offences, it cannot always be guaranteed that NSW Police will not press charges.

What is the cost?

Medicare does not cover the cost of an ambulance. This page from Ambulance NSW has a helpful breakdown of the different ambulance costs in NSW.

In short, if you are a resident of NSW and you call an Ambulance you pay a call out fee of $392 and then an additional $3.54 per ambulance kilometre travelled. The fees are higher if you are not an NSW resident. You will not be charged if you are a pensioner or a concession card holder.

The person in need of assistance is charged the fee, not the person who makes the call.  Some private health insurance policies include ambulance cover.  There are more answers to frequently asked questions about ambulance fees here.

In summary If in doubt always call an ambulance, saving a life is always the number one priority. Police will attend with the ambulance if someone has died or if it is felt that there is threat to ambulance safety. When police attend guidelines instruct them not to press charges for minor drug possession offences, but this cannot be guaranteed. There are costs associated with calling an ambulance and these are paid by the person who is assisted with few exemptions. 




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