ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — A medically-based poll says most Americans don’t see themselves as being capable to help in a medical emergency. The new poll from the American College of Emergency Physicians and Morning Consult says about half of American adults aren’t prepared to help in a medical crisis.

Emergency and 9-1-1 dispatchers say when those emergencies like cardiac arrest or severe bleeding occur, bystanders will often panic, especially when it’s a family member.

“You never know when a medical emergency is going to occur, and you never know where they’re going to occur,” Communications Director for the American Red Cross of Virginia, Jonathan McNamara told WFXR.

(Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR)

Those moments before crews arrive can be some of the most crucial.

The ACEP study shows just over half of American adults say they could perform CPR. About 47% say they could control bleeding or move people to safety. But even making the initial call can be scary for anyone.

“When somebody calls and says ‘my kids not breathing’, it doesn’t matter how many times that person did CPR in their life, if it’s their kid, it might go completely out of their head,” Dispatcher Hanes with Roanoke County Fire & Rescue said.

The study says 90% of cardiac arrests happen outside of the hospital. But less than 30% felt ready to assist with one.

“If we’re talking cardiac arrest and CPR kinds of things, always call 9-1-1 first,” Community Outreach Coordinator for Roanoke County Fire & Rescue, Brian Clingenpeel stressed. He says if a person is not breathing dispatchers are likely to walk you through ‘Hands-Only CPR’

(Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR)

If an emergency happens in a public space, there might be an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) available. The kit itself will guide you through the process.

Emergency officials say to stay on the phone with dispatchers until paramedics arrive, no matter how experienced you are.

Clingenpeel says it can take first responders about six minutes to arrive. But some factors like location or high call volume can impact timing. He recommends taking classes, especially if you live with someone with a medical condition.