How to do the primary survey (DR ABC)
Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and the
casualty. Find out what to do.
What is the primary survey?
The primary survey is a quick way to find out how to treat any
life threating conditions a casualty may have in order of priority.
We can use DRABC to do this: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing
Watch our video - Primary survey
What to do
1. Danger. Before approaching the casualty,
always make sure the area is safe.
2. Response. Check if the casualty is
responsive or unresponsive. As you approach them, introduce
yourself and ask them questions to see if you can get a response.
Kneel next to their chest and gently shake their shoulders, asking,
‘What has happened?’, ‘Open your eyes!’.
- • If the casualty opens their eyes, or gives another gesture,
they are responsive.
- • If they do not respond to you in any way they are
unresponsive and should be treated as quickly as possible.
3. Airway. Next, you need to check that the
airway is open and clear. Open the airway by placing one hand on
the forehead to tilt the head back and use two fingers from the
other hand to lift the chin.
- • If they are unresponsive, you need to move on to
breathing as quickly as possible.
4. Breathing. You now need to check if the
casualty is breathing normally. Place your ear above their mouth,
looking down their body. Listen for sounds of breathing and see if
you can feel their breath on your cheek. Watch to see if their
chest moves. Do this for 10 seconds.
- • If they are unresponsive and not breathing, you need to call
999/112 for emergency help and start CPR straight away. Ask a helper to find and
bring a defibrillator (AED).
- • If they are responsive and breathing move on to
5. Circulation. Once you have established they
are breathing, look and check for any signs of severe bleeding.
- • If they are bleeding severely you will need to control and
treat the bleeding by applying direct pressure to the wound. Call
999/112 for emergency help.
- • If they are unresponsive and breathing but with no bleeding,
put them in the recovery position and
call 999/112 for emergency help.
Once you have completed your primary survey and have treated any
life-threatening conditions you can move on to the secondary survey (top to toe survey).