Scene Safety and Size Up

People get hurt every day. From severe car accidents to sports-related injuries, at some point, you are going to come upon an emergency you are not directly a part of and be pressed to make the ever important decision: Should I help?

The important part of the question is not “should you help,” but rather, in what way can you be of help? If you have first aid or medical training, the responsibility becomes more imperative, and those suffering would appreciate your assistance. If you don’t have first aid or medical training, consider what else you might do, but first, think of these important steps to keep yourself safe.

Remember, you are number one, and the last thing this event needs is another victim. Size up the scene visually first before jumping into action. Make sure you are in a safe place prior to providing any help. If you are driving, make sure to turn on your hazard lights and pull your car out of the road whenever possible.

From observation, can you figure out what might have happened? Can you clearly identify the number of people that might need assistance? What do you have with you to protect yourself if you do decide to help? Gloves to keep bodily fluids off your hands, a mask or glasses to protect your eyes, or appropriate clothing (close-toed shoes, for example) in the event that you need to walk in an area with broken glass or metal? The list could go on, but what most people have and can be of the greatest help is usually already with you: your mobile phone.

Make sure you put the number for direct to 911 dispatch in your mobile phone so when you need to call, your call is routed to the appropriate person as quickly as possible. By calling 911, you giving more information to the emergency services coming to assist.

When calling 911, remember the six W+HI acronym:

  1. Where are you calling from? (They need to know where to send help)
  2. What is the reason for you call?
  3. What services are needed? (Fire, ambulance, police)
  4. Weapons; are there any weapons?
  5. When did this problem begin? (Timeline, if known)
  6. Why did this happen? (Accident, assault, robbery, fire)
  7. How many people are in need of assistance?
  8. Is anyone injured?

Once emergency services arrive, it is important for any person who witnessed or assisted the event to stay until told they can leave by police, fire, or paramedic. There is a high likelihood that your name and contact information will be needed for post-action reports, so do your best to be patient while staying out of the way.

Above all else, never provide care outside of your training and scope of practice. Although we all might have watched television programs about emergencies, we must remember that those shows are for entertainment and not training. At Joffe, we encourage everyone to become trained in fundamental first aid, CPR, and AED. These classes are hands-on and impactful, and most people find the time of great benefit. We hope you never have to use the skills, but that they are appreciated when someone is in need during an emergency.

Work with your local agencies. We hope you can step up when things go down.

Dan Dworkin, Director of Infrastructure and Assessment