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Difficult first aid situations

Difficult first aid situations

When it comes to first aid, assessing the situation properly is crucial. Call for help early on.

Incidents involving traffic, fire, electricity or water can put your own life at risk. Be sure it is safe to approach.

Poster download: What to do in an emergency situation

Important questions to ask yourself


  • • What are the dangers and are you or the casualty still in any danger?
  • • Have you got any protective clothing or equipment on?
  • • Is it safe for you to go up to them?


  • • What has caused the accident or situation?
  • • How many casualties are there?


  • • What happened?
  • • How many people are involved and how old are they?
  • • What do you think the main injuries could be?

Traffic incidents

How to make the area safe

Call for help – 999 or 112.

Park safely.

Set up warning triangles 45m away in each direction.

Make vehicles safe by turning off the ignition.

Stop upright vehicles from moving by applying a handbrake, putting in gear or putting blocks in front of the wheels.

Look out for physical dangers like oncoming traffic.

Tell the emergency services if any power lines have been damaged, fuel has been spilt or if any vehicles have hazard signs showing they contain harmful substances.

How to assess the casualties

Assume that anyone who’s been in a road traffic accident could have a neck or spinal injury.

If possible, treat them in the position you find them in, supporting their head and neck all the time and wait for the emergency services to come.

Search the area to make sure you don’t miss anyone who have may been thrown or who has wandered off.

Ask bystanders to help.

If someone’s trapped inside or under a vehicle, you’ll need to wait for the fire service to get them out.


How to leave a burning building

If you see or suspect a fire in a building, set off the first fire alarm you see.

Call 999 or 112.

Try to help others out of the building but don’t put yourself at risk.

Close doors behind you to help stop the fire from spreading.

Use the fire exits and look for assembly points outside.

Don’t use lifts.

What to do if someone’s clothing is on fire

If someone’s clothing is on fire, remember Stop, Drop and Roll.

Stop them from panicking or running or going outside because any movement or breeze will fan the flames.

Drop them to the ground and wrap them tightly in a fire blanket or heavy material like a coat, curtain, woollen blanket or rug.

Roll them along the ground to smother the flames until they go out – then treat any burns by cooling them as soon as possible.

Call 999 or 112 for emergency help.

Electrical incidents

Common injuries from electrical incidents

Cardiac arrest  if someone experiences an electric current through their body it may stun them and stop their breathing and heartbeat.

Burns an electric current can give someone burns where it enters and exits the body.

Fractures and spinal injuries  a direct current (DC) can cause a large muscular contraction that often throws someone and can result in injuries like fractures and spinal injuries.

Electrically charged an alternating current (AC) causes muscular spasms which can lock their grasp so that they can’t let go. This means they are electrically charged so you mustn’t touch them or you'll risk electrocution too. Instead you need to break their contact with the source of electricity.

How to break contact with electricity

Don't touch the person. Call for help.

If you can, stop the source of electricity by:

  • • turning it off
  • • pulling out the plug, or
  • • switching off the current at the mains.

If you can't stop the source of electricity, move the casualty away from it without touching them directly. Don't use anything metal as this will conduct the electricity.

  • • Stand on material like a wooden box, a plastic mat or a book.
  • • Use something wooden like a pole, broom or stool nothing metal to push their limbs away from the source.
  • • Or loop some rope around their ankles or under their arms making absolutely sure you don’t touch them and pull them away from the source.

Once you’re sure the casualty is clear of the electric current, carry out the primary survey, treat their injuries in order of priority and call 999 or 112 for medical help.

Water incidents

Common conditions caused by water incidents include

Cardiac arrest if someone’s suddenly falls into cold water it can make their heart stop, known as cardiac arrest.

Hypothermia being in cold water can cause hypothermia.

Shock being in cold water can make the conditions of shock worse.

Drowning if someone inhales water this can block the airway causing them to drown.

Heart problems the effort of swimming can also put a strain on the heart.

How to rescue someone from water

Call for help – 999 or 112.

Getting the casualty out of the water

Stay on dry land yourself and throw them a life belt if one is available, or hold out a stick, a branch or rope for them to grab and then pull them out of the water.

If they can’t pull themselves out because they’re unresponsive, and it’s safe for you to go in the water, wade or swim to the casualty and tow them to the bank, keeping them as upright as you can.

If you can’t get the casualty out of the water safely, wait for the ambulance.

When the casualty is out of the water

If they’re unresponsive, open their airway and check for breathing.

If they are not breathing, begin resuscitation (CPR).

If they’re responsive, try to shield them from the wind and treat them for drowning and then for hypothermia.

Take or send them to hospital even if they seem to be better. If you are worried about how serious the casualty's condition is then call 999 or 112 for medical help, if you haven't previousy done so. 

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