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How to Handle an Emergency

One moment you’re driving along, nothing but your destination in mind, and the next you’re faced with a stressful and frightening accident in the road ahead of you. There’s no denying that the scene of an accident is definitely dangerous and getting out of your car could mean you may see injured, bleeding people or children. It’s round about this stage that panic kicks in for even the toughest of people.

Luckily paramedics are trained to deal with this type of thing. They’re faced with accidents like this every day and are well-equipped to cope with and treat people who have been injured in collisions.

More often than not though, the paramedics are not the first people on the scene, someone like you is. So what happens if this is the case? What are you supposed to do if you actually saw the accident unfold? Who do you phone? What is the first thing you should do while you wait for help to arrive?

In case you are thinking about questions like these, we’ve compiled a list of important bits and pieces that will help you look after yourself and others involved in an accident in a safe, calm, and careful way.  This advice will keep you going until the ambulance arrives.

The first thing to do

Stop on the side of the road

  • Make sure you park out of the road a safe distance away from the accident.
  • Your headlights and hazard lights are helpful to other motorists when turned on. They'll help warn on-coming traffic that they should slow down. Putting your brights on isn’t the best idea though – this could actually do more harm than good seeing as brights have a nasty habit of blinding on-coming traffic.
  • Park your car somewhere safe if the accident has happened on a bend or blind corner. By parking your car at a safe distance away it will do well to prevent anyone colliding with your vehicle or from adding to the existing accident by causing a pile-on.
  • Your warning triangles are golden at this point – use them.

What’s next?

Call an ambulance

The quickest way to get hold of an ambulance is to phone the South African Ambulance Call Centre at 10177.

You will be asked for the following information:

  • Your phone number (just in case you get cut off the line)
  • Where the accident has happened (this includes the street name and nearest intersection)
  • Details of how the accident happened, how many people are injured, and whether there is a fire or not
  • From the information you give, the dispatcher will then send trained paramedics to the scene to help

Helping those who are injured

You should always do what you can to help those who have been hurt in an accident. Got a first aid kit in your car? Pull it out and put on the rubber gloves that you’ll find in the kit.

Those who have been involved in an accident often need to be kept calm and reassured. Try and provide comfort to those injured. Let them know that you’ve phoned an ambulance for help and that there will soon be professional medical help.  It’s very important to let those involved in an accident know that help is on the way.

Important things to remember when helping those injured:

  • For safety sake, if you don’t know how to move and help those injured, rather wait for a trained professional to arrive. You could be putting both your life and the lives of others in danger. Always make your safety the first priority. If you are hurt while trying to help others you won’t be able to continue helping.
  • Chances are slim, but if you have access to a fire extinguisher, douse flames from the base. If you have access to water, do the same, douse flames from the base.
  • It’s so important that you don’t try and move anyone that’s been in an accident. The only time it’s okay to do this is if the car is on fire and you aren’t able to get hold of a fire extinguisher to kill the fire. It may happen that the person involved in the accident has an injury to the neck or spine that you don’t know is there. If you try and move them, you could make it worse.
  • If the person injured isn’t conscious, try and open their mouth and make sure there isn’t anything blocking their throat so that air can enter their lungs.
  • Is the person breathing? Check.
  • If the unconscious is breathing, wait for the ambulance to arrive, but keep checking on them.
  • If the injured aren’t breathing then it’s time to practice the rescue breaking and CPR you’ve learned.
  • If someone is bleeding a lot from an injury, take whatever material you can find (like a t-shirt or gauze if you have it) and put it over the wound. Apply pressure directly to the bleeding and keep this up until the ambulance has arrived.  Keeping up this pressure could save the person’s life.

Being on the scene of an accident is very stressful, for anyone, but knowing how to keep calm and help where possible is very important. If you’re able to do that you prove to be a huge help to those who are in desperate need of a helping hand, whether it be helping with first aid or simply calling an ambulance.

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