By guest blogger Peter Marotto, M.Ed., Instructor Trainer, HSI Training Center Coordinator for Security Industry Specialists, Inc.
Responding to a first aid call means you are the first link in the chain of survival for out-of- hospital care. First aid requires the responder to keep a cool head and offer the best care to comfort, reassure, and treat the victim.
One way I teach my students to remember the steps of care a first aider renders is to remember the acronym OPICH.
A first aider needs to observe the victim and their surroundings for potential hazards. We are no good to the victim if we become victims.
After the scene is deemed safe, a first aider observes the victim from head to toe, looking for obvious signs of injury. Harder to determine, yet just as crucial as observing for physical injury, is monitoring the victim for signs of illness, allergic reaction, or altered mental state from heat and cold, fainting, diabetes, stroke, or other unspecified illnesses.
Identifying an injury may be a quick step, while observing for illness may take more time. Don’t rush the observation step.
Observing also includes the primary and second assessment, asking the victim to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, and then repeating the assessments until emergency medical services (EMS) arrives, or the victim recovers and is able to go about the rest of their day.
Pressure is most often thought of as what a first aider applies to cuts to slow or stop bleeding. While this is undoubtedly a valuable use of applying pressure, a first aider may also use the application of pressure when there is no bleeding.
A slip, trip, and fall victim may complain of unspecified pain in their body. By applying light pressure to limbs and the torso we may be able to isolate areas of impact and help determine the severity of injury. Pressure may also be in the form of an ankle or wrist wrap, splint, or in the form of a blanket to comfort and calm a victim in shock.
Remember to always ask for permission from a conscious victim before administering any first aid.
Cleaning a wound, flushing an eye with water or saline, running a thermal burn under water, and cooling down a person suffering heat exhaustion are all forms of irrigation. Make it a point to review the different types of prep pads and topicals that are kept in your first aid kit. Note each product’s primary and secondary uses, as-well-as when to avoid using them. Always ask a conscious victim if they are allergic to any medications before applying topicals.
Cold packs and ice packs are a simple and effective method to help reduce swelling, slow blood flow to a bad cut, and help cool down a victim of hyperthermia. Generally, try to avoid placing the cold pack directly on bare skin, and always note the time the cold pack was first applied and how long it was kept on the victim before being removed or replaced.
In addition to having instant, disposable cold packs on hand, keeping sandwich bags at the ready to fill with ice can be a quick and effective means to administer cold.
While many first aid kits are stocked with cold packs, heat is an often-overlooked step in first aid care. Heat applied to a sore or stiff muscle, especially the back, can help loosen tight areas and relieve pain. Heat administered slowly can help hypothermia victims raise their body temperature. Always note the time the heat pack was first applied and how long it was kept on the victim before being removed or replaced.
Just like we can keep sandwich bags on hand to fill with ice, instant disposable heat packs may not always be at the ready. If, however, you are in an area with access to a sink and microwave keeping strips of T-shirt cotton cloth on hand to wet and heat up in the microwave can be a simple and effective heating pad.
As with pressure and irrigation, always ask conscious victims for their consent before administering cold or heat.
First aid calls, while time sensitive, are usually slower moving than CPR calls., This means taking time with the victim is often a much-needed first step to keeping them, and yourself, calm. Maintaining a sense of calm will help make the assessment questions you ask when observing the victim less awkward and applying assessment pressure less embarrassing.
As a first aider you may find keeping these five steps in the back of your mind helps focus your efforts during a first aid call. Lastly, remember to observe the victim continuously for signs of decline or, hopefully, recovery.