How Do Paramedics Get Into A Locked House? (2023)

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Paramedics have several options for getting into a locked house. They might use a lock box if there is one available or try to bump the lock. If the paramedics assume the person inside is in danger, they won’t hesitate to break down the door to gain entry.

It’s a worst-case scenario come to life. Your senior parent or loved one is having a medical emergency, but their door is locked and family members are an hour away. You’ve called emergency services, yet you’re not sure how they’re going to get in either. What will the paramedics do?

In this article, we’ll talk in much more detail about the methods of entry that paramedics and medical services use to get into a locked house during emergency situations. We’ll also include what they will do when helping those who live in an apartment complex or gated community.

Table of Contents

Do EMTs Break Down Doors?

First, let’s define the emergency workers you might find on an ambulance crew. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics are not the same.

EMTs can administer medical care, but not to the extent of a paramedic. For instance, an EMT can provide oxygen to a patient, check their glucose levels, or do CPR.

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On the other hand, paramedics can give the patient life-saving medications, apply an external pacemaker, or insert an IV line. EMTs cannot.

Knowing that, can EMTs break down a door to gain access to a senior’s house or is that a job that’s reserved for the paramedics?

Both EMTs and paramedics will break down a locked door to reach an ill or injured patient if all else fails. They have the legal authority and obligation to do so if human life is under an immediate threat.

How Can Ambulance Crews Force Entry?

As we explained in the intro, destroying the door is not a first resort during medical emergencies, though. The main concern of a paramedic crew is to provide urgent medical help with minimal damage to the dwelling, if possible,

So, the EMT or paramedic will look for easier access to the residence. They will try to open the garage doors or check for an open window first.

This is where a medical alert lock box is invaluable. We’ll discuss them more in the next section.

The second option these emergency responders will try is known as lock bumping. This done via a bump key. By using a bump key, also referred to as a 999 key, the ambulance service may be able to get into the house.

They insert the key, apply pressure with a screwdriver or hammer, and then the door should open. This way, the front door doesn’t have to be destroyed, although it might be a good idea to replace the door locks after that.

EMTs and paramedics will only break down a door without trying those other options if they suspect that the person inside is in potential danger. In some cases, like for a stroke or heart attack, the above methods of entry, while effective, would waste too much precious time.

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In a true emergency scenario, ambulance drivers or fire crews would likely force their way in by using a Halligan bar. Similar to a crowbar like you find in hardware stores, a Halligan bar (invented by a New York City firefighter) is used to pry open the door latch or to force a door frame open,

What Is A Medical Alert Lockbox (First Responder Lockbox)?

We mentioned medical alert lockboxes in the last section. These are also known as first responder lockboxes. But what exactly are they?

A medical alert lockbox is a box that you install outside of the home of your senior parent or loved one. It is similar to a lock box that a realtor puts on the front door of a house that’s for sale.

The box contains the senior’s house key. This way, a first responder only has to open the lockbox and they can gain entry to the house without having to break down the door.

Most types of first responder lockboxes are opened by using a code. When the senior calls in their emergency, they give the code to the emergency dispatch. However, if the person is unconscious or panicked, they aren’t going to remember a code! So, what do you do?

You should definitely give the code to your senior’s personal emergency response system (ie: Life Alert, etc) so they can tell 9-1-1 if they report an emergency. In addition, you can give it to the senior’s local 9-1-1 dispatch center so they have the code on record.

You probably wonder if having a medical alert lock box on the property is a safety risk. After all, if a paramedic can open the box, then couldn’t any Average Joe on the street, including criminals and other nefarious characters, do the same?

Not exactly. Many medical alert lockboxes include a code lock that only opens when you correctly input the access code. Other lockboxes must be manually unlocked, which is not easy if you don’t have the master keys.

It’s perfectly safe to have a lock box outside of your senior parent’s home and highly recommended!Paramedics, police officers, and fire stations deal with medical alert lockboxes all the time so they’re very familiar with how they work. Conversely, the general public should be confounded by a lockbox.

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A word of warning – just because you installed a first responder lockbox on the premises does not preclude the paramedics from breaking down the door to get into the house. We want to reiterate that emergency responders will bust through a door if they feel like the senior is in danger.

Yet for non-emergencies, a medical alert lock box can spare your senior’s front door. If you haven’t already sat down with your elderly parents and talked about getting them a medical alert lock box, now is as good a time as ever for the conversation.

Where Do You Install A Medical Alert Lockbox?

Deciding where the medical alert lockbox will go requires careful consideration. You need the lock box to be clearly visible enough that the paramedics know it’s there. Yet you also want it hidden to a degree so the lockbox’s presence doesn’t attract criminals.

What many adult caregivers do is install it on the front or side of their senior parent’s property.

Ideally, you want to get permission from your senior parent before you set up the lock box so they know it’s there too.

How Does An Ambulance Get Into A Gated Community?

What if the independent living community where your senior parent now lives is gated? This is great for privacy and security at any other time, but once your senior needs emergency assistance, the gate is just one more obstacle slowing down their arrival to a hospital’s emergency department.

How will the ambulance pull through into the gated community if the gate is shut? Well, the rules vary from one community to another, but almost all will open the gates automatically if they hear sirens.

That doesn’t only apply for ambulances then, but law enforcement and the local fire department as well. If the apartment buildings owner or manager didn’t open doors for emergency personnel and lives were lost because of it, the liability would be on the property owner or manager.

Otherwise, the first responders can use a bump key, a first responder lock box, or a click-to-enter device to get through the gate. A click-to-enter device allows a fire truck or ambulance to announce their presence via emergency radio or even through strobe lights.

Do Paramedics Lock Your House (If They Are Transporting You)?

One way or another, the paramedics got into the house of your senior parent or loved one. We’re going to assume in this example that emergency personnel didn’t have to break down the senior’s door, but rather used a bump lock or a first responder lockbox to open it.

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Since your senior lives alone in our scenario, once they’re transported to the hospital or another medical facility, the house will be unoccupied. As of this moment, you may not even know that an emergency has transpired and probably won’t until your senior reaches the hospital and you get a phone call.

Even once you are informed, your first thought is going to be that you need to go to the hospital to see your senior parent or loved one, not that you need to drive by their house and lock up.

However, you would also hate to bring your senior home once their medical condition allows it, only to find that their house was robbed since no one had closed and locked the door.

So, do paramedics lock the house if they’re transporting a patient to a medical facility? They will try their best, yes, but they don’t always.

If your senior’s front door has a basic lock, then the paramedic will quickly secure the door on their way out. They might not put up the chain lock, but the door is at least locked.

What if the door is more complex than a single lock?

The paramedic might not have the time to address it. It’s not that they don’t care about the security of a patient’s house but locking up is not part of their job description. It’s their duty to save lives. Right now, it’s more important to get the senior to the hospital, so that’s exactly what the paramedic is going to do.

This doesn’t mean the house will sit empty and unsecured though! Once the emergency team has transported the patient or while they’re transporting them, the paramedics will contact either the closest fire station or police departments. One or both teams will visit the premises to secure it.


Paramedics and EMTs have many ways of entering a locked house when responding to emergency calls. The preferred method is to try to bump the lock or use a first responder lock box if time allows and the situation is deemed a non-emergency. In emergencies when the senior’s life might be at risk, however, the paramedics will break down the door.

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It can be scary having a senior parent or loved one living alone in an independent living community, as you worry about what would happen if they got sick or hurt and you weren’t there for them. Now that you understand what the protocol is, you can rest a little easier.


Do ambulances lock? ›

Most Paramedics will not leave a home unlocked IF they can lock it behind them, or get Police or Fire there to secure the premises. The Paramedic's job is to treat the patient, not secure property.

Do Paramedics have to take you to the nearest hospital? ›

If there is an emergency and you are unable to express your wishes, even if you have advanced medical directives or a health care proxy in place, the Emergency Medical Technicians or Paramedics responding to the call are obligated to stabilize you and transport you to the nearest appropriate hospital.

How do Paramedics get into apartment buildings Canada? ›

It is accessible by either a code or the fire department's key. At most commercial buildings and apartment complexes the fire department arranges with the property owner to install a key safe where the master keys to the business or complex are kept. The most common is the Knox Box.

Can Paramedics force entry UK? ›

In reality, ambulance crews can force entry to a property if they believe there is a risk to the patient. Similarly, the police often call for an ambulance when a victim, offender or a member of the public they encounter has minor injuries.

Can paramedics force entry a house? ›

If the emergency services need to gain access to your property, they could break open doors or windows if they believe there is a risk to the patient. They are unlikely to pay for any damage if they have justifiable reason to force entry into your premises.

Can paramedics unlock doors? ›

Both EMTs and paramedics will break down a locked door to reach an ill or injured patient if all else fails. They have the legal authority and obligation to do so if human life is under an immediate threat.

What do you say to get seen faster in an emergency room? ›

As your friend did, you can always try to drop a big name, like say you're friends with the president of the hospital. In general, if they think you're a VIP (even if you're not), you'll definitely get seen more quickly. ...

Is it better to call an ambulance or drive to the hospital? ›

All of this can happen while you are being taken to the hospital, which is why an ambulance is a better option than having someone drive you to hospital. Don't be surprised if the paramedic team drives past your nearest hospital and takes you to another.

How long do paramedics take to arrive? ›

The average time from ambulance dispatch to when it is ready for the next call is 60 minutes (45 minutes travel and treatment time plus 15 minutes handover time), so the theoretical maximum capacity of the 10 ambulances is 10 calls an hour.

How do emergency services access flats? ›

Working with the Fire Service to set standards

The box is accessed via a secure restricted lock; the keys are carried on the fire tender. Once the switch is operated the access or door control system is rendered safe (open).

What city pays paramedics the most? ›

Best-Paying Cities for Paramedics

The metropolitan areas that pay the highest salary in the paramedic profession are Seattle, Longview, Olympia, Bremerton, and Bellingham.

Do police have a universal key? ›

No, the police don't have “master keys” to anyone's home, unless that person leaves such a key in their possession or someone who knows that person provides them with such a key.

Who can force entry into your home? ›

Search warrants

If the police have a search warrant they can, if necessary, use reasonable force to enter and search the premises.

What is a Section 17 police? ›

17 Entry for purpose of arrest etc. E+W. (1)Subject to the following provisions of this section, and without prejudice to any other enactment, a constable may enter and search any premises for the purpose— (a)of executing— (i)a warrant of arrest issued in connection with or arising out of criminal proceedings; or.

Can you drive an ambulance without being a paramedic? ›

Can I be an ambulance driver? To drive an ambulance, you'll usually be a qualified ambulance care assistant/patient transport service driver, emergency care assistant, emergency medical technician or paramedic. However, it's unlikely you will just drive an ambulance.

Is it illegal to obstruct paramedic? ›

The Act makes it an offence to obstruct any emergency service crew while responding to an emergency, whether physically or not, punishable by a fine of up to level 5 on the standard scale.

Can paramedics restrain you? ›

Some examples of restraint that may be employed by paramedics could be physically stopping an intoxicated individual from walking into traffic; holding the hand of an uncooperative patient with diabetes suspected of having a hypoglycaemic episode to enable measurement of their blood sugar; strapping a patient to a ...

Do you legally have to move for an ambulance? ›

The Highway Code states that you should 'consider the route of such a vehicle and take appropriate action to let it pass, while complying with all traffic signs'. In other words, while you should look to let the emergency vehicle pass, you shouldn't if the only way to do so is by breaking the law.

Can 911 open a locked door? ›

Also, don't call 911 for help if you are locked out of your house (unless the lock out is connected to an actual emergency, like a fire)—the police and/or fire department aren't going to come to your rescue.

How do emergency responders get into gated communities? ›

First responders typically have designated access keys that they can use to enter the gated community if there is a virtual guard. Some access control systems have a unique feature that will only work when the first responder turns on the strobe lights or keys up their emergency radio.

Can 911 unlock car doors? ›

Dial 911. Safety comes first; so don't hesitate to call 911 if you think you're in danger. In many cases, the police can unlock the car's door. If they can't, they will probably call a tow truck, which will be on your tab, of course.

Does an ambulance get you seen faster? ›

Calling an ambulance does NOT get you seen faster in the emergency room. You will be triaged like other patients and seen in the order the emergency room can assist you based off the needs of other patients. FOR TRUE MEDICAL EMERGENCIES, please call 9-1-1.

What is the best time of day to go to ER? ›

Least busy hours The best hours to visit an emergency room for far less urgent medical conditions according to a recent study, are between 6 am and noon. During these hours, most hospitals don't have as many patients waiting in line and you are guaranteed to get quality medical care.

How do you get taken seriously at the ER? ›

6 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Emergency Room Visit, From an ER Doctor
  1. Information improves care, so come to the ER as prepared as possible. ...
  2. Long ER waits are awful and doctors recognize this. ...
  3. Don't be embarrassed to ask us questions, no matter how weird or embarrassing. ...
  4. Adjust your expectations.
Nov 30, 2017

What should you not call for an ambulance? ›

Call 995 For Emergencies Only

You can make a difference between life and death by knowing what is an emergency. For life-threatening cases such as cardiac arrest, active seizures, breathlessness, major traumas and stroke, call 995.

How long is acceptable to wait for an ambulance? ›

We aim to be with the patient within 15 minutes of the time specified by the GP. Similarly, if your assessment requires an emergency response, make this clear to the call operator. Our non-emergency transport teams provide basic care including oxygen and Entonox.

Should you call an uber instead of an ambulance? ›

Similarly, Uber commented, “Uber is not a substitute for law enforcement of medical professionals. In the event of any medical emergency, we always encourage people to call 911.” In certain circumstances, the professionals I interviewed agreed: It's perfectly reasonable to call a ride instead of dialing 911.

What is the first thing the paramedics do when they arrive? ›

When Paramedics arrive on the scene of an accident, they assess a patient's condition and respond accordingly. If a patient is critically ill or injured, Paramedics must use their equipment and training to monitor and manage the patient's care.

What is code purple for ambulance? ›

All calls are triaged into the following categories: Purple: Our most critically ill patients. This is where a patient is identified as having a 10% or more chance of having a cardiac arrest. The actual cardiac arrest rate across this category is approximately 53%.

How long do most paramedics last? ›

What Is EMS Burnout? Currently the average career span of an EMT or paramedic is only five years.

How does Firemans drop key work? ›

The Fire Control boxes offer Emergency Fire and other authorised and key-holding personnel the opportunity to over ride any locking device fitted via Fire Drop Key allowing immediate access to area's in a Emergency Situation.

Do ambulances have keys? ›

Almost all ambulances do have keys, but many have a system that allows you to take the keys out while the engine is still running. Because the ambulance contains medications and IV fluids that can't be exposed to temperature extremes they are usually left running so that the heat or air conditioning can be left on.

What is a fireman's switch used for? ›

The fireman switch is a switch-disconnector/ isolator for special applications. You can see these switches on the outside wall of commercial buildings. They are designed to by easy to spot and are used by firemen to turn off neon-lighting or other hazardous electrical equipment in case of fire.

Why do so many paramedics quit? ›

Low pay was the primary reason roughly one-third of all EMTs quit in 2021. The industry is having a hard time replacing them. A 2022 American Ambulance Association study of employee turnover found that 39% of part-time EMT and 55% of part-time paramedic positions went unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates.

Can paramedics make six figures? ›

Continue your EMS education to make more money

Since an EMT can earn from $33,000 to $51,000 a year and a paramedic can earn anywhere from $40,000 to $70,000 a year, increasing your training and designation is one way to earn more money.

Why do paramedics make such little money? ›

There are other reasons EMS pay is so low. Certification is minimal — it only takes 120 to 150 hours of training to become an EMT (paramedics require significantly more). Ambulances in rural communities are often staffed by volunteers, which depresses wages for those who do pursue the role as a career.

What is a 999 key? ›

Bump keys are specially cut keys that can bypass the security mechanisms built into traditional pin and tumbler locks. Bump keys are also referred to as “999 keys” because all of their ridges are cut to the maximum depth (999) in a key-making machine.

Is there a key that opens any lock? ›

A skeleton key (also known as a passkey) is a type of master key in which the serrated edge has been removed in such a way that it can open numerous locks, most commonly the warded lock.

Do all handcuffs take the same key? ›

Most modern handcuffs in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Latin America can be opened with the same standard universal handcuff key. This allows for easier transport of prisoners. However, there are handcuff makers who use keys based on different standards.

What to do if an ambulance is blocking you in? ›

If an ambulance or ambulance car comes up behind you with blue lights and sirens, please pull in over to the left if there is a safe space to do so – so it can pass you.

What to do if an ambulance blocks you in? ›

Just knock on the door and politely ask if they are able to move. There are many reasons for an ambulance to attend and some non-emergency situations can take crew a long time to sort.

Can an ambulance be stopped? ›

No Obstruction: Obstructing an ambulance means not only unnecessary wastage of the 'Golden Hour' but is illegal and considered as an offence. On committing the offence, a fine of Rs.

Is it illegal to go around an ambulance? ›

Other rules about driving around emergency vehicles

Additionally, you're never allowed to pass a moving emergency vehicle while it's using its lights and siren. You may be allowed to pass one if it's parked and the emergency personnel directing traffic are waving you past the parked vehicle.

Can you sue an ambulance driver? ›

If an ambulance takes too long because of negligence, then you may be able to sue for compensation. For example, if a serious medical emergency is miscategorised as low priority and the ambulance takes a long time to reach you, resulting in harm, this could entitle you to make an ambulance negligence claim.

What would warrant you contacting an ambulance? ›

If you have a life-threatening condition, like chest pain or chest tightness, breathing difficulties, sudden numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, the nearest ambulance will be sent straight away under lights and sirens.

Can an ambulance park on private property? ›

They can park on the pavement, white lines or the ultimate parking no-go, the double red lines. They can even park in a driveway of a private home or a space outside. But if it is possible they must only park safely and not obstruct traffic - lest they cause an another emergency situation.

How do you call an ambulance without talking? ›

You can call an ambulance by using 999 or 112. If you are deaf, hard of hearing or speech-impaired you can contact us by texting from your mobile. This facility is available in any type of emergency and is for people who can't use the standard 999 voice or the RNID's text relay services.

Can you speed past an ambulance? ›

In an emergency an ambulance gets dispensation from obeying certain traffic laws including the speed limit. In an emergency it is up to the discretion of the driver to decide the best speed to get to or transport the patient to hospital while minimising the risk to other road users.

What does red mean in ambulance? ›

Patients with a red score under the NEWS system are considered to be critically unwell, with the RCP recommending that they receive an immediate assessment by a team with critical care competencies.

What is the top speed of an ambulance? ›

The fastest first responder ambulance vehicle in service is The Hypersport Responder with a speed of 395 km/h (245.4 mph) and was achieved by Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (UAE) in Dubai, UAE on 29 January 2022.

Can you break a red light for an emergency vehicle? ›

Yes, a driver may legally break a red light to allow an emergency service vehicle to pass.

What is code 3 CVC? ›

CODE 3 EMERGENCY RESPONSE A “CODE 3” response is defined as an emergency response determined by factors such as immediate danger to officer or public safety that require an expedited priority response utilizing lights and sirens.

How much is a ticket for 21706 VC? ›

Motorists that violate California Vehicle Code 21706 VC will receive: A fine of $238; and, One point assessed to their DMV driving record.


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