This is a follow up to the article, Why You Shouldn’t Try to Rescue Someone in Danger. If you haven’t read it, go check it out and this will make more sense.
To help your memory, here are the 3 main points of why it’s a good idea to leave a rescue to the professionals:
- You aren’t trained
- You don't have a team helping you
- You might do more harm than good
Emergencies are dangerous situations. Not only for the victim, but also for the rescuers. This is why we have rescue experts like firefighters, police officers, and search and rescue teams who train often on how to be successful.
But, if you don’t have a choice and need to attempt a rescue before help arrives, here are some things to consider so you increase your chances for success.
CERT Training (Community Emergency Response Teams) is a great way to stay on top of essential skills and learn new skills.
Training helps greatly to make the most of a bad situation. Knowing what potential hazards might prevent you from staying safe is essential, and new techniques are frequently developed to increase the odds of success.
Very smart and highly experienced people are constantly coming up with new ways, or modifying old techniques, to make a rescue. Even if you’ve taken some courses in your lifetime, chances are good that information is outdated.
If you’re the kind of person who wants to make a difference and protect those around you, you need to be visiting that training often. Medical training should be a top priority because it is one area that’s applicable to almost all emergencies.
No rescue should be attempted without a plan, because jumping into an emergency without thinking is a great way to make the problem worse.
We need to evaluate the situation carefully (if quickly) and come up with a course of action with a positive outcome for both the victim and the rescuer(s).
We want to avoid acting without thinking whenever possible, but this is hard when you’re worried someone might die if you don’t react quickly.
What makes it additionally difficult, is that you might not be sure what the best course of action should be. Training will help to relieve some of this indecision, and help us consider our own safety, as well as the victims, or we might be adding to the emergency instead of helping.
The first step of any plan should be to consider the potential hazards. Instead of rushing into an emergency without thinking, we should stop and think about what we can do to reduce our personal risk.
Stop for a moment and think the situation through. This will help you to collect yourself and keep you from tunnel vision. Look around you carefully and try anticipating where the danger lies, then form a plan to account for it.
You are out on a hike in the mountains when you see a person lying across the trail ahead of you. They aren’t moving and you think you can see blood.
If you run up the trail to see if you can help, without taking a moment to observe the surrounding area, you might be running into the same problem that caused the injuries to the victim in the first place.
What if the victim was attacked by a bear that’s still in the area? Running in without a plan might just make you another victim, instead of a rescuer.
If you can anticipate where the risk is, we can help reduce that risk to more manageable levels. Think outside the box. Can we turn off the electricity? Drag the victim to a safer location? Put out the fire?
Emergencies tend to occur when we aren’t expecting them, and when we’re least prepared. It’s impossible to prepare for every situation, but we can improve our chances for success by knowing what resources we have at our disposal.
Putting together a car kit with equipment that covers a wide range of practical uses can make a world of difference.
Basic tools, like a pocketknife or multitool, is one way to help extend your available resources. If you don’t like to carry these types of items on your person, having them in a kit in your personal vehicle is often a great way to keep valuable items nearby.
Emergencies often call on rescuers to improvise. Knowing what resources we have available might help us to come up with a creative solution to a complex problem.
Medical resources are, of course, another important aspect of this.
Trauma medicine is not very complicated, if you have the right tools for the job. Not having any medical gear drastically reduces your effectiveness, so make sure you always have what you need to treat the more common problems, and train to use that gear.
Part of managing resources is knowing if you have anyone to help you. This might be as simple as directing a bystander to call 911 while you render first aid. Or you can ask someone to flag down the ambulance, direct traffic, or hold pressure on a wound.
Don’t be a lone hero if you can help it. Professionals work in teams to help keep them safe and you should too when possible.
Know Your Limitations
Physical fitness is an essential part of any rescue. If you really want to make a difference for someone in danger, being physically fit is one of the more important parts of emergency preparedness.
You could be the most mentally tough person in the world, but if your body can’t keep up, you’re more likely to become another victim. Not only does frequent exercise keep your mind sharp to make good decisions, a strong body allows you to pull yourself out of danger when you need to.
If you have a chronic medical condition preventing you from becoming physically fit, you should at the very least be taking this into account during your planning phase to keep you from getting in over your head.
This is also true for your skills. In the last article I discussed “AVIR syndrome” or Aquatic-Victim-Instead-of-Rescuer syndrome. This is where the rescuer dies trying to save someone from drowning.
If your limitation is that you aren’t a good swimmer, that takes jumping into the water to make the rescue off the table and lets us focus on a more reasonable approach with a better chance for success. Like throwing the victim a rope from the safety of the bank.