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Helping Victims at the Scene of an Accident
Chances are at some point in your life you will witness an accident. While most accidents are minor and not life-threatening, major accidents occur every day. Here are a few guidelines for helping victims of an accident.
If you witness an accident, call 911 immediately. Don’t assume someone else made the call. It’s better for emergency operators to get multiple calls than none at all. When you speak with the emergency operator, describe the location in detail, including cross streets. Be sure to explain what happened, how many people were involved and the condition of the victims to the best of your ability. Do not hang up the phone until the operator tells you to.
When you approach the scene of the accident, use caution.
Avoid another collision by parking your car beyond the accident. Turn on your emergency flashers and make sure it’s safe to approach the scene. Look for hazards such as downed power lines and spilled gasoline. If you do come across a dangerous area, alert the emergency operator and avoid the area.
Don’t move the victims unless they’re in immediate danger.
Many car accidents inflict neck or spine injuries to the victim and movement could make injuries worse. If the victim is in imminent danger (like a car fire), and you can move the victim without causing injury to yourself, do so while avoiding unnecessary bending or twisting the neck, body or limbs. For example, if you find the victim with legs crossed, move him with his legs crossed. The sharp edges of broken bones can cause internal damage if they’re moved around. Dragging the victim is better than trying to lift him or her by yourself. The best way to drag the victim is by his or her clothes above the shoulders or by the ankles.
If necessary, assist the victim with breathing.
If the victim is not breathing, and you feel you can safely administer aid without endangering yourself, tell the 911 operator and let him or her coach you through the steps of CPR until the ambulance arrives.
Assist with first aid.
If the victim is bleeding severely, and you feel you can safely administer aid without endangering yourself, press firmly against the wound with some kind of thick pad or cloth. This will help absorb the blood and allow it to clot. If possible, use a barrier between you and the victim’s blood such as several dressings, a plastic bag or latex gloves. If blood soaks through the cloth, don’t remove it. This could cause the bleeding to worsen. Instead, add more thick layers of cloth and apply pressure even more firmly. If the victim is still bleeding, and there is no evidence of a broken bone, elevate the wound above the level of the heart. Elevation helps reduce blood pressure at the wound. Continue to keep hand pressure on the wound.
Be on the lookout for shock symptoms.
Many victims go into shock moments after an accident. Symptoms of shock include pale, moist, clammy and cool skin; a weak and rapid pulse; dilated pupils; weakness; thirst; nausea and vomiting; shallow, rapid breathing; a vacant expression; and an offhand, ‘so what’ attitude. Shock occurs when the victim’s circulatory system fails to provide enough blood to the body – especially the brain. Any serious injury can throw a person into shock and shock can kill even when the injury is not life-threatening. If a victim appears to be in shock, have him or her lie down and elevate the feet if you can do so without causing further injury to the neck, back or wound. Do not move the victim if you believe there might be a spinal injury. In cool weather, place blankets or coats under and around the victim to conserve body heat. Reassure the victim. Gentleness, kindness and understanding play an important role in the treatment of shock.
Only assist if you are certain you will not be in danger and use extreme caution to prevent any further injuries. By rendering preliminary aid, you could potentially save lives. By remembering these tips you will be capable of helping someone in need in an emergency situation.
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