8 things you MUST do when trying to help at the scene of an accident

By Nombulelo Manyana
21 July 2017

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela says unless you have a first aid kit and medical experience, it is better to wait for the ambulance.

On SA’s busy roads, accidents happen devastatingly often – and more often than not, the first people on the scene will be the shocked fellow motorists who watched the whole thing happen.

So what do you do if it happens to you? You’re a Good Samaritan who stopped to help – but what if you're getting involved does more harm than good?

Police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubela says unless you have a first aid kit and medical experience, it is better to wait for the ambulance.

"When you get to the scene, don't touch anything and call the ambulance as quickly as you can."

Makhubela says the other important thing is not to panic.

David Stanton, head of clinical leadership of Netcare 911 agrees. “If you do come across a road accident, you may be able to make the difference between life and death to those involved,” he says.

“Remember, in an emergency, even the smallest action can make all the difference.”

Here are 8 things you should keep in mind when trying to help someone:

1. The very first thing you have to do is to ensure your own safety.

Is it safe for you to be around the accident scene? You cannot help anyone if you are injured or compromised in any way as well.

2. Stop in a safe place, with your hazard lights on.

Put a warning triangle at a fair distance back from the scene to alert motorists to the possible danger ahead. This will give them enough time to slow down safely.

3. Look around the scene for any possible hazards.

These may include petrol or diesel leaks, fire, oncoming traffic, dangerous animals or even hostile bystanders.

4. Assess the scene and see if there are people injured.

If there is, make sure that you phone for help. Remember to give the operator your number in case the call gets cut off.

5. When you call for help, make sure you have the location of the incident handy.

If you are not sure of the exact location, look for the nearest intersection or any large landmark that would be helpful in describing your surroundings to the operator.

6. Give the operator a brief description of the scene.

Try to describe the number of injured patients and the nature of their injuries.

7. Do not move an injured person.

Unless it is absolutely necessary, as you may cause further injuries, especially if the person has suffered spinal injuries. Rather try to keep injured people calm by talking to them and reassuring them that help is on the way.

8. If there is heavy bleeding.

Try to stop the bleeding by compressing the wound with a clean towel or piece of clothing.

Just as there are things you should keep in mind in order to help, there are things you should not do.

"Never touch an open wound or any bodily fluids of another person if you do not have the necessary protective gear such as gloves, face masks, and eye goggles."

And if a patient has a foreign object impaled anywhere in their bodies, do not remove it unless absolutely necessary.

Call for emergency medical services as soon as you arrive tO the scene and assist where required.

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