Someone has fallen down the stairs, or maybe they have been hit by a car or other vehicle. After ensuring your own safety, what should you do?
First and foremost, as long as it is safe, DO NOT MOVE the person. In both of the examples, the rescuer must consider that the victim may have a head injury, neck injury, back injury or all three. Moving the person from the spot he/she is found, could result in permanent spinal injury or worsening of an internal head injury. So, what if anything should the rescuer do?
- Make sure that it is safe to help. If the area is not safe, don’t go. Call 911 and wait for emergency services to arrive and assist the victim. Remember: You are no good to anyone else if you become injured.
- Call for help / 911. Call out for someone to help and if another person responds, have that person call emergency services (911). If no one responds and you have a cellphone, call emergency services with the speaker function. Only leave the victim to call 911 after any major bleeding is controlled.
- Control any obvious bleeding with direct pressure over the wound. Use a towel, shirt or any other clean item that can be used to stop bleeding.
- Encourage the person not to move. Speak in a calm and reassuring voice. The victim will feed off of your emotional state.
- Support the victim’s head, neck and back by lightly placing your hands on both sides of the head to assist the victim with remaining still. Find a comfortable position at the top of the head and continue support until EMS arrives and takes over.
- If the person vomits, has blood or another fluid in his/her mouth, you will need to roll the victim onto his/her side. While this movement can cause more injury or even paralysis, if the person remains on his/her back, the likelihood of choking and death could result. We must always ensure that the person has an airway and can breathe. If the airway is not clear, then death will occur.