Wednesday 23 January 2019

Sometimes acting with the best of intentions can be the worst thing you could do for injured road users

'Talk but don't touch unless you have to' is the message for those first on the scene of an accident
'Talk but don't touch unless you have to' is the message for those first on the scene of an accident


I was recently contacted by a member of the fire service.

He wanted us, the RSA, to consider running a campaign on what people should and shouldn't do when they come across a road traffic collision.

The firefighter was prompted to call because he had been coming across instances of good Samaritans who have no or little training, such as community cardiac responders, first aiders etc.

These well-meaning people would have been first at the scene.

The firefighter said, however, that they were pulling casualties out of vehicles and onto the road.

While they think they are helping and are doing this with the best of intentions, they could end up causing even greater injury.

My caller gave an example.

His fire tender was sent to attend a crash involving a motorcycle.

Before they arrived, a local community cardiac responder had come across the scene.

On his own he proceeded to remove the casualty's helmet.

This is something you should never do because of the risk of aggravating a possible spinal injury.

Luckily, on this occasion, there was no injury involved, nor were the injuries he received exacerbated by the actions of our good Samaritan.

But, in truth, he was lucky.

When the firefighter spoke to him, he could not understand why, as a cardiac responder, he should not have done it, saying it was just a helmet.

Of course, it's not just a helmet, and it's important not to remove it from an injured motorcyclist.

Leave that to the trained professionals.

As the firefighter told me himself: "If the message of 'talk but don't touch unless you have to' could be put across it may do some good."

If you are the first on the scene of a crash, you have a duty to firstly call the emergency services.

You can call them on 999 or 112.

You will be put through to the national 999 call-handling centre.

The first question you will be asked is: 'Which emergency service do you require?'

You will have to choose either the gardaí, fire brigade or ambulance service.

You will then be put through to the call handling centre for that emergency service.

You will be asked a series of questions about where the collision happened, how many people and vehicles are involved and whether anyone has been injured. Finally, you will be asked for your details.

In collisions where people are killed or injured, you can expect to be asked additional questions. This is to make sure that enough responders are dispatched as soon as possible.

If you are first to arrive at the scene of a crash, there are some dangers of which you need to be aware.

The risk from passing traffic, the location of the crash - on a dangerous bend. Is it at night? These are the most obvious.

Dangers posed by vehicles involved in the crash itself and those that have shed their loads are others.

While waiting for the emergency services, you may be able to help make the scene safe, while not endangering your own safety.

You might have to decide between attending to the injured and making the scene safe.

Try to share these responsibilities. If there are others, two of you should move away from the scene in opposite directions to warn approaching motorists.

If you have a torch or high-vis jacket, use them to help you do this job more safely.

If you have a car, turn on your flashing warning lights to warn oncoming drivers, preferably at opposite ends of the scene.

In general make those injured as comfortable as possible and try to reassure them.

Let them know that help is on the way. Be discreet. Don't say anything within earshot of those injured which might be negative.

When the emergency services arrive, make yourself known to them immediately and give them as much information as possible.

Ask if you should remain at the scene. If people are injured the gardaí will probably need to take witness statements.

Irish Independent

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