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Basic First Aid and the DRSABC Code

My background is in law enforcement and the U.S. military. Every other year I go back and take a refresher course in first aid and CPR.

First Aid Basic Steps

First Aid Basic Steps

The Basics of Administering First Aid

Literally, first aid is the absolute FIRST assistance you administer to someone who has been injured. Because accidental injuries are a leading cause for death, and because most accidents happen in the home, everyone should learn some form of basic first aid. Having the skills needed to determine the seriousness of a person's condition during an emergency can potentially help you to save a life.

The 5 Primary Goals of First Aid

  1. To keep the victim alive. The ABC of life support—airway, breathing, circulation—is the consummate top goal in first aid.
  2. To stop the person from getting any worse.
  3. To advocate for their recovery.
  4. To provide positivity and comfort.
  5. To assemble emergency services quickly.

What to do When Giving Emergency First Aid

First and foremost, it is your responsibility to stay calm. Second, you must determine the level of safety by quickly assessing the situation around you as well as the victim. Finally, you must conduct the "DRSABC" code accordingly. The DRSABC is the established plan of action for an emergency situation. It helps to determine, using a step-by-step method, just what is going on with the patient, surroundings, and if emergency services are required. The steps are as follows:


  • D for Danger
  • R for Responsiveness
  • S for Shouting
  • A for Airway
  • B for Breathing
  • C for Circulation

Taking Action in an Emergency

During your assessment you should have found and identified any dangerous or potential hazardous conditions. Following this you will:

  • Maintain your own personal safety (you can't help anyone if need help yourself).
  • Manage observers by keeping them out of harms way (direct bystanders to stay clear of harmful surroundings).
  • Correct any hazardous conditions only if this does not endanger yourself or anyone else (if you get hurt correcting the environment's hazards who will care for the injured).
  • Move the victim away from the danger only in extreme conditions. (In some cases, moving the injured person can cause greater harm to them than the risk of leaving them where they are).

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Responsiveness in an Emergency

You must try to assess just how responsive the victim is.

  • If a victim appears to be unconscious or only partly-conscious, you may need to speak quite loudly to them. A couple of good practices to use are loudly saying, "Can you hear me?" or "What is your name?"
  • If the injured person doesn't respond to the vocal questions, tap them firmly on the chest.

Shouting for Help In an Emergency

When the afflicted person fails to respond to loud vocal ques, or a tap on the chest, you must quickly get some extra help.

  • Shouting at a near by person can get you needed assistance.
  • If the first person doesn't come to your aid, keep shouting until someone does.

Airway During an Emergency

At this point, you must check the airway of the victim. You will be determining if the airway—the path running from the mouth to the lungs—is clear enough for breathing to take place.

  • Check the mouth for any objects that may be obscuring the flow of air. Remove anything you see, don't put your hands deep into the mouth if you can avoid it.
  • You will need to tilt the head back gently; this keeps the tongue from falling back and closing off breathing.
  • You will put your hand on the hairline, while at the same time placing two fingers under the front of the jaw. Now you can exert gentle pressure to tilt the head back until the natural stopping point is detected.

Breathing During an Emergency

It is essential that you determine if the victim is breathing.

  • Is the chest rising and falling?
  • Place you ear next to their mouth—do you hear breathing sounds?
  • Put your face or hand next to their mouth—can you feel exhaled air coming out?
  • Does the victim have signs of life (e.g., good skin color, warm to the touch, etc.)?
  • If these things are not happening, then it is a pretty good bet that the person is not breathing. It is time to call emergency services; it is best to have an observer do this for you when possible.
  • Immediately you must begin artificial respiration.

Circulation During an Emergency

This is where you will be checking for indications that the person has functioning circulation.

  • Look closely for breathing, coughing, or any signs of motion.
  • Don't waist time looking for a pulse unless you are highly trained in the medical field.
  • If you can not locate any signs of circulation or life, it is time to start cardiac massage (chest compressions)—but only if you have been trained to do so, if not, recruit someone around you who has this experience.

How much do you know about emergency situations?

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

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  1. What should you do to reduce the risk of fire after a car accident ?
    • Rollup the windows and lock the doors.
    • Turn off the engine to the damaged car, and if possible disconnect battery.
    • Roll down the windows and turn on the A/C.
  2. What is the best method for puttting out a fire in a frying pan?
    • Put a lid on it to deprive the flames of oxygen.
    • Throw water on it.
    • Carry it to the sink and dump it out.
  3. What are the signs that someone has frostbite?
    • Skin turns white and is painful (feels similar to pins and needles).
    • Numbness, skin changes from white to blotchy.
    • Skin and tissue start to feel hard and stiff.
    • Skin turns blue at site.
    • All of the above.
  4. What should you do If someone gets burned badly?
    • Remove anything that is stuck in the burn.
    • Use adhesive fluffy dressings.
    • Rub the burn with fat, or lotion, or ointment.
    • Pop any bubbles or blisters you see forming.
    • Don't do ANY of the things listed above!

Answer Key

  1. Turn off the engine to the damaged car, and if possible disconnect battery.
  2. Put a lid on it to deprive the flames of oxygen.
  3. All of the above.
  4. Don't do ANY of the things listed above!

Why is it so Important NOT to Move an Injured Person

Do not move the victim if you can avoid it!

The best practice after an accident or injury is to not move the victim. There are many good reasons why this remains the standard for basic first aid. Trained medical personnel have studied how to safely move an injured person for years, and unless you have this kind of training yourself, let the person remain where you found them until the skilled EMT team arrives (then, answer their questions and get out of their way). Spine or neck injuries are likely to happen during an accident or fall, if you move the victim, you can cause more damage in these areas.

If you must move the person to assess their well-being and injuries, or to administer CPR or other restorative first aid, then do so with caution. Try to stabilize the spine and neck as much as possible (by not moving them around too much, do not treat or immobilize the neck with items around you unless you are trained to do so). This is where asking for help from bystanders comes in quite handy.

Dialing 911, 999, 112

Log the emergency service number where you live right into your phone's auto-dial #1slot!

Log the emergency service number where you live right into your phone's auto-dial #1slot!

While Waiting for Emergency Services to Arrive

We are all pretty clear that calling for emergency services is free on every kind of phone now. But, when you are in a situation where you need them, knowing how to make contact is imperative no matter where you are. Even after making this important call, you still have some things to do. If you are inside a building with the injured person, select a by stander to wait for the EMT unit to arrive outside. Direct them to wave down the paramedic units as they come into view. If it is nighttime, switch on the porch light if you're in a home, or use a flashlight to signal the EMT units if at a building.

You will need to continue to check the victim for breathing, circulation, and how alert they are every five minutes until the paramedics arrive on the scene.

Are Emergency Service Numbers the Same Worldwide?

Most countries have their own emergency services number, which is usually three digits, easy to remember, and easy to dial swiftly. In some countries a different last number indicates which service is being beckoned; fire, medical, or law enforcement. In the European Union the number 112 is used, which is the most widely used Global System for Mobile Communications [GSM] since the 1990s. The United States and Britain have also standardized their emergency numbers. Below you will find the most common and useful emergency services numbers to date.

  • European Union - 112
  • North America - 911
  • Britain - 999

What kind of Questions Will Emergency Services Ask Me on The Phone?

Q: Is the victim conscious and breathing (and any other information you may have about their condition).

Q: Your name

Q: Where are you located (use landmark identification if you are unfamiliar with addresses and street names).

Q: What time the event happened, and what is wrong with the victim.

Q: The age and sex of the victim, and if more than one, how many people are requiring assistance.

Q: Are there any residual hazards around, icy road conditions, toxic substances, overhead dangers, fire near by, armed assailants, etc.

Q: Will you stay on the phone until help arrives. If you can avoid it, don't hang up with the operator until the EMT units take over your victim(s).

First Aid Resources

Basic First Aid

You can assist someone who has been injured by using a few standard first aid steps. This is more helpful than you may think. Being the calm protector who gathers needed information, secures the area, and gets trained help to the scene has great impact on the final outcome of any life threatening situation. Practice the basic steps found here, so you are prepared to do what you can during an emergency situation. Hopefully you will never find yourself in a position needing you to employ first aid tactics. But if you do, it is a very good feeling knowing that you have a few of the basic first aid answers tucked away in your memory!

The methods and information provided within this article are a brief guideline for basic first aid. To further understand the required procedures for administering first aid in any situation, you will need to take a class, get certified, or gain better insight through study or a mentoring program.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments for "How to Give First Aid"

India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 02, 2012:

Simone~ Honored you found the time to read the hub! I appreciate it very much that you like the layout. When something happens, like an accident, it is good to have a set way to manage the situation already in your head. That is my goal with this hub, to get some information to those who care to have it.


India Arnold (author) from Northern, California on May 02, 2012:

Marlene~ Every other year I go back and take a refresher course in first aid, and CPR. I always find something to be reminded of. Thank you for stopping by! I appreciate it.


Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 30, 2012:

This is such a good overview! Very convenient and well-laid out. Thanks for going over the major considerations and steps to follow. I'm glad to have the reminder!

Marlene Bertrand from USA on April 26, 2012:

Excellent information. As I read your hub I started realizing how much we are in charge of when we assist someone in an emergency. The DRSABC Code made it clear to me that there is a process involved in handling emergencies. Thank you for sharing such wonderful information. I really did learn a lot here.

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