Would you know what to do?
I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic today, but disasters don’t work around my editorial calendar.
I live in Seattle, and early yesterday (Monday) morning, a Seattle-to-Portland commuter train derailed while speeding across Interstate 5. Several of the train cars actually fell off the overpass, hitting cars on the freeway below.
Last I heard, at least 6 people were dead, and over 70 injured.
During the chaos that followed the accident, several train passengers and car drivers immediately stepped up to help others.
I’m always impressed when ordinary people—not trained emergency professionals—are able to keep calm and offer aid. Aid that can prevent further injury or even save a life.
More often than not, these Good Samaritans have taken first aid classes or have some other life experience that has helped them know what to do in an emergency.
Take a first aid class
I taught first aid classes for the American Red Cross for many years.
A statistic I liked to use is that in an emergency situation, about 10% of people remain calm and provide aid; another 10% totally freak out and make the situation worse; and the remaining 80%—the vast majority—are paralyzed and don’t do anything. (These numbers come from the airline industry.)
The 80% do nothing for a simple reason: they don’t know what to do, or what to do first.
And that is what I would teach my students. I would give them a framework of how to assess and respond to an emergency, and then I would teach them basic first aid.
I hoped this information would empower them to act, if the need ever arose.
If you haven’t already, please consider taking a first aid class so that you, too, will know what to do in case of an emergency.
The American Red Cross website has information about class locations, dates and costs. You could also check with a local medical center or fire department to find out what’s available in your community.
Learn to control bleeding
Using a tourniquet is not taught in American Red Cross first aid classes.
But the American College of Surgeons (ACS) thinks using a tourniquet is a skill the public should know.
Mostly in response to terrorist attacks and mass shootings, the ACS formed a joint committee to “inform, educate and train ordinary citizens to respond to a mass casualty event.”
Blood loss is a major cause of death in any violent disaster that involves guns, explosives or fast-moving vehicles. Many lives could be saved if more people knew how to control bleeding at the scene of an accident or attack.
To find out more, check out the website BleedingControl.org.
Large-scale disasters need blood—lots of it.
Rather than waiting around for an emergency appeal for blood donations and standing in line for hours, schedule a time give blood at your convenience.
Many cities use the American Red Cross for blood services, but others don’t. If you’re not sure where to donate blood in your community, call a local hospital and ask.
Even better, volunteer to organize a blood drive at your school or workplace.
As yesterday’s horrific accident reminded me, disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, to anyone.
Please be prepared.
Image: Washington State Patrol