A woman was dining with her husband at a downtown restaurant one evening when the husband fainted. The woman looked at him in horror and cried out, "Somebody get a doctor!"

In fact, it turned out to be nothing serious, and she laughed about it later. She was a doctor, herself, a general practitioner with the health service of a major metropolitan university. In her panic, for a few seconds there, she forgot . . .

Do you know how you would react if someone you loved -- or even a stranger on the street -- needed sudden emergency treatment?

Do you know who to call for an ambulance?

Do you know what to tell the emergency operator?

Do you know what to do until the ambulance comes?

Even if it's late?

Can you perform cardiac-pulmonary resuscitation?

Do you know someone close at hand who can?

The more you know before an emergency occurs, of course, the more likely some semblance of cool will penetrate through a panic-befogged mind. These are the real-life cases when speed can mean the difference between saving a life or losing it.

Community organizations and hospitals are eager to disseminate as much emergency information as the public reasonalby can be expected to absorb. And it comes in varying dgrees of sophistication depending on how much an individual wants to get involved.

First, of course, you need to know the fastest way to get help. In many metropolitan areas (including D.C. and the Maryland suburbs -- but not yet Virginia's) 911 has been adopted as the all-purpose emergency number.

In other areas emergency numbers are generally listed on the inside front cover of the telephone book. Copy them out now and put them up near your phone. (Or, if you must, call your police department or telephone information. In any case, do it before the emergency.)

As a public service, the Washington Hospital Center has published an informative poster, the Emergency First Aid Chart, which includes useful, easy-to-understand, step-by-step instructions, and this wise rule of emergency thumb:

"If an injured person is in distress but is breathing, phone for help at once.

"If the victim is not breathing, help first, and phone later. Or get someone else to phone."

It includes illustrated instructions for "rescue breathing" and helpful first-aid tips on: Bites and Stings; Bleeding; Burns; Choking; Electric Shock; Fainint; Falls; Fractures; Head Injury/Concussion; Heart Attack; Poisoning; Seizures; Unconsciousness.

And suggests several steps that can be taken to prevent some common emergencies:

Stop smoking (not just injurious, but a fire hazard); practice moderation (in alcohol, eating and exercise); get a yearly checkup; prevent fires (from smoke detector to frayed wires to home fire drills); guns -- ("if you must keep firearms, store them in an inaccessible place and make certain they are not loaded"); kidproof your home; drive carefully and finally: Take a course in first aid and CPR.

for copies of the chart send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to: Public Affairs Department, Washington Hosptial Center, 110 Irving St. NW, Washington D.C. 20010 .

Cardiopulmony Resuscitation and Life Support:

Early this month, the American Medical Association issued, through its journal, new guidelines and procedures for emergency cardiac care and cardiopulmonary resuscitation -- known popularly as CPR -- and other emergency life-support techniques.

The AMA estimated that 200,000 lives could be saved annually if enough communities, places of business and organizations ralled to teach the easily learned techniques to enough people.

Both the Red Cross and the American Heart Association teach CPR courses. The Red Cross has a 12-hour Cpr and Life Support Course and a 9-hour course for the basics. The Heart Association teaches 8-hour and 4-hour courses. The Red Cross charges nominally for texts. The AHA has a small enrollment fee.

These courses should be a must for any families with a heart patient -- 70 percent of sudden deaths from heart attacks happen before the patient is hospitalized . And, because many of these are first-time attacks, everyone else should know where the nearest CPR technician is. If you don't maybe it should be you.

Life support courses also include instruction in treating choking -- including varitations of the so-called Heimlich maneuver.

In the Washington area, call the Red Cross for information at 857-3642.

Call the AHA for information -- and, they request, with any information you can provide on successful use of CPR -- at 337-6400.)

Poison:

Children, especially, are prone to accidental poisonings, but so are the elederly whose vision may be failing, the ill or any of us who, at one time or another, is literally too tired to see straight.

The National Poison Center Network in Pittsburgh now serves 53 regional and satellite poison control centers in 43 states.

The centers provide round-the-clock telephone service from trained medical or paramedical professionals. They also provide a wealth of educational and informational materials, including the popular iridescent "Mr. eYuk" stickers.

The stickers contain the nearest poison number imprinted under a face with a stuck-out tongue and thoroughly disgusted expression -- all to be stuck on bottles and boxes as an easily preceived warning that inside is something yukky.

When you call a poison center, it is important to have this information: What was taken. How much. How old was the medicine. How old is the victim. How long ago was it taken. Weight of victim. Symptoms.

Don't panic. Many poison cases can be handled at home. If not, you will be told waht to do and where to go.

For general information on the centers and their programs, write the national network in care of Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, 125 DeSoto St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15213

Mr. Yuk sticker should be obtained from the center nearest you, because they include the telephone number you should call. Centers require a stamped, self-addressed envelope. The first sheet of stickers is free. Additional sheets are 15 cents each.