How to be a Good Samaritan:
We all want to help our neighbors in times of need and for many of us that opportunity comes in the form of being first at the scene of an accident. Emotions run high during these stressful moments.
Traffic accidents are terrible events, and they can be traumatic for victims and bystanders alike. We often don’t know what to do or not to do as our actions can have long-term consequences. Every situation is different, but here is a basic guide to help you.
- Park at least 100 feet from the scene of the accident. This keeps you safe from any dangers on the scene and gives emergency vehicles a clear path. Turn on your vehicle’s emergency flashers and let oncoming cars know there is danger ahead and to slow down. Preventing the accident from getting larger is a major help.
- Survey the scene as you call 9-1-1. How many cars? How many people are hurt? Are there any power lines down? Is fuel leaking? Are there any fires? Is there anything else responders should know? Don’t assume someone else has called 9-1-1. It’s better for many people to call than help being delayed because it was assumed that someone else called. If you are going to offer help, determine if it’s safe for you to do so before trying. Remember to protect yourself first. Watch for broken glass, fluid leaks, power lines, etc.
- If the victim(s) are conscious ask if he/she wants your assistance. As hard as it can be, if victims reject your offer of aid do not force it and wait for professional help. Unless the car is on fire DO NOT MOVE VICTIMS as this can make victims’ injuries worse. (The most common injuries in an accident are head and spinal injuries and improper movements can make these injuries worse and even permanent.) Do not remove children from car seats or cars. If the child is in a car seat, responders can use it to protect the child and keep injuries from being made worse. If you take the child from the car, responders, many times, have no idea that the child was involved and care for the child is delayed. Valuable time is spent trying to find where the child is, who has the child and unnecessary stress is put on the parents worrying about where their baby is. Ignore your instinct to pick up and hold the child. This could make any injuries worse.
- Render aid. Use any skills and training you have. Even the most simple of things can mean the world to victims. Help keep them comfortable (shield from falling rain, shade from the sun, keep them warm, etc.). Talk to them, reassure them that help is on the way. Remember to be encouraging. Use a clean cloth and gentle pressure to help stop any bleeding. Even something as simple as holding their hand can give victims hope and strength. After an accident, bystander help can go a long way. Be calm and think actions through. Cars can but rarely catch fire after accidents. Most often what we see is steam from leaking fluids or dust from airbags. Sometimes helping involves pulling victims from burning cars, but more often it’s calling 9-1-1 and giving assurance.
If you wish to learn more on how to help, first aid classes are offered at North Georgia Technical College. You can also volunteer with your local city/county fire department and they will teach you more advanced treatment and skills.
Jeffrey Lunsford, Paramedic