What happens when you call

How we respond depends on how sick or badly hurt you are.
‹ Communications Centre

Should I call an ambulance?

If you have a medical emergency call 111.  It’s our job to work out the best sort of help. 

For medical advice call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

When you call us

How we respond depends on how sick or badly hurt you are.  It works like this:

  • Communications centre call takers use an internationally proven assessment tool to work out how serious your situation is. They’ll ask you questions about your condition, then assign a response based on the information you give them. 

  • Life threatening situations, like a cardiac arrest or serious accident are always our first priority.  If this is you, we’ll send the closest resource we have as fast as we can.  We work with other emergency services to get life-saving medical care to you as quickly as possible.

  • If your situation is serious but not life threatening, we’ll send the closest help straight away.  Sometimes a ‘first responder’ is the first to arrive.  These people are trained in basic health care.  They will assess your needs and do what they can to make you comfortable.  When the emergency paramedic crew arrives, they might treat you at home, or take you to the hospital in the ambulance.

  • If your problem is not serious or urgent, we’ll connect you to a health clinician.  They will ask extra questions about your health and your worries to make sure you get the right sort of care.  That might be an ambulance, a referral to help in the community, or health advice.  

  • If you live in Porirua or Kapiti, it could be a visit from an Urgent Community Care paramedic.  

Different emergency codes

We need ambulances and highly skilled paramedics on hand for people with the most urgent, life threatening conditions. We also want people to get the right sort of help.

About half of all 111 calls are for things like falls and unexpected illness. These are serious and need attention, but not usually a lights and sirens dash to hospital. Lots of people prefer to be helped at home if they can.


In a study using data for the twelve month period between December 2012 and November 2013, emergency response categories were made up of:

Purple Immediately Life Threatening 1.2%
Red Immediately Life Threatening or time critical 46.7%
Orange Urgent or potentially serious or life threatening 34.2
Green Not serious or life threatening 14.4%
Grey Not serious or life threatening, with over the phone clinical input for further assessment.  3.5%