Are you prepared to be first on scene at an accident?

Kath Heiman — 16 February 2017

I just completed the Provide First Aid Course conducted by St John Ambulance hosted over two-and-a-half days. And I left the course wondering whether, as a group of overlanders, we give sufficient prominence to our potential responsibilities as first responders in circumstances of accident or injury.

Think about it. It’s probably a long time since many of us have looked at a driver training handbook. If we did, we’d find there’s an expectation that, when we stop at an accident scene, we’ll assist anyone who’s injured. These expectations are based in the road rules of our various states and territories where we’ll find clauses that oblige us to give all possible assistance (or similar words) in these circumstances. 

Which makes me wonder: what assistance could you provide if you were to find me, by the side of the road, cold and clammy and gasping for breath with a chest wound after our rig has received a side-swipe from a passing road train?

On a good day, I probably wouldn’t care what answer you gave me. My husband has a history that includes a Royal Life Saving Bronze Medallion, service with the Army and Federal Police and he’s been first-aid qualified since he was in diapers (well, maybe not quite). So I know that, if he’s available, I’ll be in good hands. But what if he’s incapacitated himself? And what if our five-year-old daughter is slumped in the back seat of the HiLux and neither Scott nor I are capable of providing assistance?

I can tell you this much: if you approach us and say the best you can do is hold her hand and tell her everything’s going to be okay, you’d better be prepared for some pretty colourful language in return.

While many people may only think of doing first-aid training if their workplace requires it, First-aid is a life skill. Indeed, it’s a ‘save a life’ skill. Which sounds to me like one of the most important skills any one of us should have. This is probably why many of us receive basic first-aid training at about 10 years old as part of the Public School curriculum.

I’m certainly glad I was first exposed to first-aid when I was so young. Specifically, at my recent course, both the rate and depth of compressions I was able to apply to the test-dummy during mock-CPR was spot-on from the outset. It seems like something lodged, deep in my childhood muscle-memory, that I could still draw upon as an adult nearly 40 years later. 

But, don’t get me wrong. I won’t pretend that I could have been an effective first responder in an emergency without a refresher. I have to admit that I’d forgotten an awful lot of what I learnt in childhood. And, as the instructor reminded us, medical practice changes as more information becomes available, and it’s important that we remain current. 

There’s also an essential quality that I’d have lacked if I hadn’t done my recent course. And that’s confidence. I’m now confident that I’ll be prepared to step up to the plate when faced with a situation requiring a first-aid response, whether I’m out on the road or in any other walk of life. Indeed, I feel genuinely empowered by the new skills I’ve learned and those old skills I’ve reinforced through contemporary first-aid training. It’s true to say that: “when you know what to do in emergency situations, you can become a valuable asset anywhere you go” (Australia Wide First Aid).

For those of us who spend time in remote areas, we probably know instinctively that our first response to an emergency situation could mean the difference between a bad day on the road – and the ‘last’ day on the road – whether for our own travel party or someone else’s. With basic first-aid training being simple to acquire and costing under $100, you’d have to be thinking pretty creatively to come up with a reason to head on to our roads without current first-aid skills and a decent first-aid kit in the back of the rig.

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test_first on scene at an accident Safety Equipment 2017 First-aid