First aid in an emergency

Do you know what to do if you witness an emergency or see someone who is unconscious and needs help? St John Ambulance Australia recommends you follow the Australian Resuscitation Council’s ‘DRSABCD Action Plan’ in an emergency.

D — check for DANGER

Assess the situation and make sure that the area is safe for you, the affected person and any other people that are present.

R — check for RESPONSE

Ask the person their name and gently squeeze their shoulders. Does the person respond? If they do respond, make the person comfortable and continue to monitor them while waiting for help.

If the person does not respond, they are probably unconscious.

S – SEND for help

Phone 000 for an ambulance or ask someone else to make the call, then continue with the action plan.

A — check AIRWAY

  • Is the airway clear of objects?
  • Is the airway open?

If the airway is clear, leave the person on their back and open their airway by tilting their head back.

If the airway is not clear and there is foreign material in the mouth, turn the person into the recovery position.

  • Kneel beside the person.
  • Put their arm that’s farthest from you out at right angles to their body.
  • Place their nearer arm across their chest.
  • Bend their nearer leg up at the knee; the other leg should be straight.
  • While supporting their head and neck, roll the person away from you.
  • When they are on their side, keep their top leg bent at the knee, with the knee touching the ground.

recovery position

Once in the recovery position, tilt the head slightly backwards and the mouth slightly downwards to let anything that’s in the airway (such as vomit) drain out. Open the mouth and clear the airway with your fingers, if necessary. Dentures should only be removed if they are loose or broken.

B — check for BREATHING

  • Is the person’s chest rising and falling?
  • Can you hear the person breathing?
  • Can you feel their breath on your cheek?

If the person is not breathing, commence CPR.

If the person is breathing, place them in the recovery position and monitor their breathing.

C — give CPR

  • Kneeling beside the person lying on their back, give 30 chest compressions on the lower half of the breastbone. Use 2 hands with the fingers interlocked.
  • You should aim for a chest compression rate of about 100 compressions per minute (almost 2 compressions per second).
  • Then tilt the head backwards, lift the chin and give 2 mouth-to-mouth breaths while pinching the nose shut. The chest should rise and fall with each breath.
  • Keep alternating between 30 compressions and 2 breaths until the person recovers, medical help arrives, or it is impossible to continue (for example, because of exhaustion).
  • If you are not willing or able to perform mouth-to-mouth breathing, you should perform continuous compression-only CPR.

D – DEFIBRILLATION

If the person does not respond to CPR, apply defibrillator (if available) and follow voice prompts.

If the person shows signs of life, move them into the recovery position and continue checking for signs of life while waiting for help to arrive.

Remember, an attempt at resuscitation is better than no resuscitation at all. However, the information in this article is not a substitute for proper first aid training.

Last Reviewed: 12 October 2011
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References

1. Australian Resuscitation Council. ARC guidelines, December 2010. http://www.resus.org.au/ (accessed Aug 2011).
2. St John Ambulance Australia. DRSABCD Action Plan (2011, Jan). http://www.stjohn.org.au/images/stjohn/information/DRSABCD%20Action%20Plan%20A4.pdf (accessed Aug 2011).
3. Resuscitation (revised February 2008). In: eTG complete. Melbourne: Therapeutic Guidelines Limited; 2011 Jul. http://online.tg.org.au/complete/ (accessed Aug 2011).
4. Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Recovery position. http://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/firstaid/recovery.shtml (accessed Aug 2011).
5. A quick guide to first aid. In: Dyson, S, editor. Australian first aid. Canberra: St John Ambulance Australia; 2006. p. 2-12.
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