When I found out that 117 does not provide over-the-phone assistance for emergencies such as choking, I decided to try calling Red Cross instead.
Still no luck. The best advice I can give right now is to make sure your kids' caregivers (yaya) have been previously trained to give emergency medical care.
If not, sad to say, there is nobody they can call.
My first call
To know what to expect from the Red Cross in case of an emergency, I decided to make a test call. It would be terrible if, at the time I really need them urgently, I find out the number I have is not working, right?
I found Red Cross's number on the Internet: 527-8384 to 97. I tried the 84 number -- "The number you dialled is not yet in service."
I tried the 85 number -- busy. I tried 86 -- it rang. My third-time luck is still at work.
I was answered by a very nice lady whom I will call Ms. Elsa. I told her I was doing advanced research on who my yaya can call if there is an emergency at home, such as if my baby were choking.
She advised me to use their trunkline, 527-0000. "Wow!" I thought. "Four zeroes. That does sound like an emergency hotline."
She said that the operator would redirect me to their emergency hotline, which is open 24/7, and will be able to give me the over-the-phone emergency help I needed.
A 24/7 line! Wow again! My heart almost skipped a beat with excitement.
"But," she said, "I would still advise you to send your yaya for training."
I asked for details about this training, and found out the following:
- If you have only two days free to attend training, you need a group of 14 people minimum to schedule a special training session: two days, with certification.
- If you can't organize 14 people, call them at 527-0000 and ask for Safety Services, who will tell you where and how you can join a group that is having a week-long training.
- If you or your yaya simply have no time to attend training, you can get their guide book, which is not as good as hand-on training, of course, but better than nothing. It's entitled "Pang Unang Lunas" (First Aid), and written in Filipino, so everyone in the Philippine society should be able to understand it. Call 527-0000, Safety Services, for details.
She also mentioned another number: 143. "It should direct you to the same trunkline as 527-0000." She was really very helpful.
I thanked her and hung up.
The so-called 24/7 numbers -- not!
So now, I tried the so-called 24/7 number, 143. My Globelines phone did not recognize it as a valid number and would not connect.
Now I tried 527-0000. After six rings, a lady answered. I told her that I was looking for where I could call for over-the-phone instructions if my baby were choking.
She put me on a short hold, apparently to ask people where she could redirect me. Gee -- so there's no SOP after all?
She came back and told me that in such a case, she would redirect me to Safety Services. Hmm -- sounds familiar. Wasn't that the first number I called? But I might have been mistaken.
Office hours only
I persisted and asked her if she could redirect me there now so that I would know what to expect next time I called.
"Sorry, ma'am," she said. "They are closed now. Office hours only."
Oh dear. Now I remember Ms. Elsa mentioning that she was there only because she was doing overtime work.
I thanked the Red Cross operator and hung up.
The mystery of the missing department
I still believe that somewhere out there, that special department that Ms. Elsa mentioned, which is open 24/7 and ready to receive my emergency call to give me over-the-phone emergency help, exists.
But if the operator who's supposed to redirect me to it does not know about it, how long must I wait with a choking baby before the operator can route my call to where I can get the help I need?
Again, fellow mothers, remember: In an emergency in the Philippines, don't depend on 117, and don't depend on Red Cross, except for advance training.
It is, apparently, every woman for herself out here, so be prepared in advance!
(To prepare in advance, you can read this post: Baby choking! What do I do? And here's a number that DOES work: Poison Control in the Philippines)