Providing Emergency First Aid

If you witnessed an accident or medical emergency such as someone choking or collapsing, would you know how to react? How to administer first aid? Would you know the steps to respond?

The average response time for trained emergency responders to arrive is 9mins, but response time in rural areas can often take up to 30mins or more. Knowing how to respond when the situation demands it could be the difference between life or death for a victim.  

In any situation, the simple act of doing something goes a long way. All states have Good Samaritan Laws that protect those who respond to an emergency. In this article, we’re going to give you an overview of basic bystander response, preparing you to act.

  • Ensure Scene is Safe
  • Check for Responsiveness in Victim
  • Look for Medical Jewelry
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Be Ready to Act

Source: American Heart Association

Always Ensure Scene is Safe

If you come across someone who is unresponsive, choking, or you witness an accident, always stop to make sure the scene is safe before proceeding to the victim.

Situations such as a vehicle accident, electrocution, fire, or injury near a power tool could be dangerous to bystanders responding causing further injury.

Check the scene of the emergency and remove any barriers to safety such as turning off a power tool or making sure there is nothing leaking from a crashed vehicle.

Always make sure you, the bystander, are safe before proceeding to care for the victim.  You are no good to the victim if you become one yourself.

Never respond to a victim of electrocution if they are still touching the power source.  If able, turn off the power at the main source and ensure it is shut off completely, before proceeding.

How To Respond

After ensuring the scene is safe, proceed to the victim in need and follow these steps. Victims should never be moved unless the situation proves dangerous and warrants moving the victim to provide safety.

1. Check for Responsiveness

Tap the victim and shout “Are you okay?” Use these steps for the following responses:

Responsive:  Introduce yourself and ask if you can help them. If they refuse, your only option is phoning 9-1-1 and waiting for emergency personnel. If they accept, you may proceed. Call 9-1-1 and provide first aid as needed.

Unresponsive: If the victim is unresponsive or appears unable to answer you with a sound mind, assume they would want your help and proceed.

Check to see if they are breathing.

2. Look for Medical Jewelry

When evaluating an unresponsive victim, check for medical jewelry that may give you vital information that a 9-1-1 dispatcher would need to know. Conditions could include:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart Conditions
  • Asthma
  • Epilepsy
  • Pacemaker
  • Celiac

Jewelry could be a bracelet, necklace, or anklet

3. Call 9-1-1

Call 9-1-1 and be ready to answer questions about the scene. If you are with others, instruct someone to get a first aid kit and AED, if available.

4. Perform CPR if the Person is Unresponsive & Not Breathing

If the victim is unresponsive and not breathing, begin hands-only CPR.

Related: How to respond to a cardiac emergency

To do so, kneel beside the unresponsive person, and interlace your hands with the heel of your bottom hand on the center of the victim’s chest.

When performing hands-only CPR, interlace your hands with the heel of your bottom hand on the center of the victim's chest.

With your shoulders directly above your hands, keep your arms straight as you use the weight of your body to push hard and fast on the person’s chest at the rate of 100-120 beats per minute.

Continue CPR until someone takes over. Or you are instructed otherwise.

5. If bleeding is present, apply pressure

If the victim is injured and bleeding, use a shirt, jacket, or some type of cloth to apply pressure to stop the bleeding. While it may be uncomfortable for the victim, applying hard pressure is what is needed to stop the bleeding and prevent hemorrhaging.

Don’t stop the pressure until help arrives.


6. Stay on the Line with Dispatcher

Remain on the line with the 9-1-1 dispatcher until instructed otherwise. Be ready to perform any needed actions they provide, such a hands-only CPR, use of an AED, or medical responses.

Always stay with the victim until emergency personnel arrive or their condition drastically improves

In What Situations Should Should I Call 9-1-1?

According to the American Heart Association, it is always better to dial 9-1-1 even if you might not need it than to not phone when someone ends up needing help. The dispatcher has the ability to call off responders with no financial charge made.

Situations they list as imperative for calling emergency personnel:

  • Someone is seriously hurt in an accident
  • Unresponsive
  • Struggling to breath
  • Has had a seizure
  • Can’t move a part of their body
  • Received an electrical shock
  • Chest pain
  • Stroke
  • Can’t move a part of their body
  • Exposed to poison – inhalation, absorption, ingestion.

Source: American Heart Association

Resources: Further Training