Emergency response 101
You’re driving down the road, bobbing your head to the radio, when suddenly you come upon the immediate aftermath of a serious accident, or worse yet, you witness a catastrophe as it happens What now? Whether it involves cars, bikes or pedestrians, there are certain steps every person should be familiar with that can dramatically increase the likelihood of the victims’ survival.
This summer alone, numerous accidents in Park City and surrounding areas have made headlines, and countless citizens have found themselves in the mix.
First things first: Don’t panic. Verging on hysteria can only make things worse. Once you’ve got a grip on yourself, approach those involved in the accident and determine if they are conscious, oriented and responsive. According to Battalion Chief Mark Billmire of the Park City Fire Department, it is important to try to get a response from the victim, even if it means shouting or shaking them gently. If they are not conscious or if they are obviously injured, call 911 — even if you think that emergency responders have already been contacted. Better to be safe than sorry.
If the victim is conscious and oriented
Talk to them and try to keep them calm. Assure them that help is on the way and ask what hurts. At this point, it is not uncommon for victims to go into shock. If you identify signs of shock, which include clammy skin, unusually fast or slow breathing, dilated pupils and intense thirst, try to stabilize the person’s temperature and if possible, have them lie down and elevate their legs to increase circulation to the brain. Do not give them anything to drink this may lead to vomiting and choking.
In the case of a neck or spinal injury, do not move the person unless you believe they are in immediate jeopardy of sustaining additional injuries, for example if they are lying in the middle of the road. If you must move them away from the scene of the accident, strive to keep the head and spine in line as you logroll the person onto their side.
If there is obvious bleeding from an external wound, apply pressure to the wound with an article of clothing. If the person’s skin is burned, apply a damp cloth or t-shirt, but don’t use snow or ice, which can cause frostbite over the original burn.
If the victim is unconscious and not breathing and/or circulating blood
It’s time to refer to the ABCs of CPR: airway, breathing, and circulation.
To make sure the airway is clear, position the person on his or her back, tilt the head back and lift the chin. Place your ear close to the victim’s mouth; listening, looking and feeling for normal breathing.
B and C can get a little trickier for those not well versed in CPR. If you find the prospect of giving mouth-to-mouth daunting, call the 911 dispatcher and they will coach you step-by-step over the phone.
For those who feel comfortable performing CPR, maintain the tilted position of the head, pinch the nose closed and give two breaths at one second each, making an airtight seal with your mouth over the victim’s. Watch for the chest to rise with each breath.
Then give 30 chest compressions at a rate of 100 compressions per minute, releasing pressure on the chest between compressions. Repeat the 2-breaths/30-compressions set until there are signs of movement or until medical personnel arrive.
According to Billmire, recent studies show that doing compressions alone can double a person’s chance of survival. Remember, it’s better to perform CPR imperfectly than not at all. Brain damage or death can occur within four to six minutes of the cessation of breathing, but a victim’s chance for survival is increased by 40 percent if CPR is administered within four minutes of cardiac arrest.
Do what you are comfortable doing, says Billmire, but don’t hesitate because you think you could be held responsible if the person doesn’t survive. The Good Samaritan Act in Utah protects those who act in good faith at the scene of an emergency from civil damages, unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the accident.
If you’re thinking, "This won’t happen to me," try talking to Toby Martin, a Park City resident who found himself in precisely this situation a year and a half ago when he witnessed a horrific accident on his way up Parleys Canyon.
Martin was the first one to get to 17-year-old victim Rayn Ewing, whose car was struck by a vehicle that crossed over the median. Ewing was barely conscious and unable to communicate verbally although she had no external injuries. Martin said his main concern was that he didn’t want her to feel that she was alone. "My only training in that type of situation was that of a parent," he said. Since the girl was trapped in the wreckage, Martin did not attempt to move her. He remained calm while trying to keep her warm and assuring her that help was on the way.
"It was clear she knew I was there," he said. Unfortunately Ewing sustained severe head injuries and did not survive the accident. "There’s not a time that I drive up to Park City that I don’t think of that," Martin said.
The Park City Fire Department hosts Heart Saver CPR/AED classes the first Tuesday of every month and First Aid classes the second Tuesday of every month starting at 6:00 p.m. The classes are $30 and take place in the training room located at the Administration and Prevention Offices at 736 Bitner Road. For more information or to register call Michelle Andersen at 940-2500 ext. 102 or email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Find out more about how Hands-Only CPR can be effective at americanheart.org/handsonlycpr.
Emergency 101 rundown:
If the victim is conscious and responsive:
If the victim is unconscious and not breathing:
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