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Your Safety Comes First

When responding to an emergency, it's easy to get tunnel vision and become unaware of your surroundings. However, it's critical to remember that if we rush in and get hurt, not only can we no longer help our patient(s), but we also now become a focus of rescuers' efforts which can lower our patient's chance of survival.

Here are some reminders to help keep you safe when responding to an emergency:

Take A Deep Breath and Think Logically

When our adrenaline kicks in or when we think emotionally, it can cloud our thinking. Take a few seconds to calm yourself and revert back to your training. We train through repetition to develop muscle memory and taking a few seconds to recalibrate can help us focus and execute. If you are untrained, a CPR and First Aid class can provide you with the training and confidence necessary to help those in need.

Assess Your Environment

Make a 360 degree assessment of the scene. Don't just rely on what you are seeing. What do you hear? What do you smell? Do you hear gunshots? Do you smell gas? Is the building on fire or is your scene located outdoors on a curved, icy road? If so, you may want to consider moving your patient(s). Is it cold outside? Do you need to put on a coat, gloves, and hat before responding?

Traffic Hazards

Car accidents are a frequent emergency that you may have to respond to. People can also get hurt in parking lots. Park your vehicle strategically with the hazard lights on, use flares or road triangles. If there are other first responders on scene, see if they can direct traffic to keep everyone safe.

Unknown Hazards

It's unfortunate that we have to consider this, but active shooter situations have become a reality that first responders must be mindful of. If a shooter is still active in the area, your priority should be to get to safety. Allow police to secure the scene first before providing first aid. There will likely be a triage area set up where your skills will likely be needed - report to that area and ask how you can best help.

Personal Protective Equipment

A little bit of forethought can help protect you from exposure to blood-borne pathogens and potentially infectious materials while responding to emergencies. Keychain CPR barrier masks and gloves are inexpensive and ensure that you have at least basic protection in most places. Car first aid kits can be purchased or assembled so you have access to a full first aid kit on the go. For employers whose workers have amputation exposure as a result of their job tasks, a bleeding control kit and blood cleanup kit should be provided and accessible. Employees should be trained on how to use bleeding control devices like tourniquets, compression bandages, and hemostatic wound packing dressings. If you find yourself without PPE in a cardiac arrest situation, you may consider performing compression only CPR if the situation is right. Remember that with children and infants, onset of cardiac arrest is usually due to a respiratory issue like drowning, suffocation, or hazardous atmosphere. They will benefit most from chest compressions AND an emphasis on effective rescue breaths.

Lastly, it's important to have continuous situational awareness. Just because you assessed the scene initially and it was safe, doesn't mean that it will stay safe. Periodically reassess your surroundings. Consider assigning a bystander to monitor the scene so you can focus on your patient, but continue to have a healthy level of awareness.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. Knowledge is most powerful when it is shared; please send this article to everyone in your network. Together, we can build a community of first responders that are skilled, confident, and compassionate.

This information is intended for individuals trained in CPR and first aid. It is not medical advice. In cases of emergency, call EMS and/or seek help from a licensed healthcare professional.

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