What I learned from my emergency first responce course

Previous month 12 of my colleagues took 3 days of courses in emergency first response or first aid in a professional environment.  Legally each Belgian firm needs to have a specific ratio of "sécouristes"/ "Industriële hulpverleners" with specific responsibilities,  but apparently anyone interested was allowed to participate in the course at my work. As a results we have the ridiculously high ratio of 12 trained first responders for approximately 60 people in the office.  What a safe place to work ;).

It was not my first first aid course as I had done already a EFR course from PADI 10 years ago, but a refresh and extension was helpfull.

So what did I take away that I believe you all should know:

1) When in doubt about somebody's wellbeing: call an ambulance! 

Our trainers were ambulance officers and officers in the fire department. While they've given lots of examples (with true video's and phone calls) of all the prank calls the emergency services gets and the jokes that people dare to phone for   (wake-up services, taxi requests, light bulb changes, ... you name it), they were very clear about the next point.  Nobody will every judge you or blame you for calling an ambulance if you have doubt about someone's health or wellbeing.

When trained in first aid, you are not a doctor.  Civilians cannot judge and know what is happening in someone's body. We don't have the knowledge, equipment etc.   So when in doubt...phone the ambulance, let the victim/patient be checked out by the professionals to be certain. It is ok, if in the end it was false alarm.  False alarm is preferable than missing an alarm.

And never assume that others have phoned the emergency services already. In Brussels the emergency services have detected fires through facebook movies before they were actually called.  Once again, your call might be the first one or maybe you give a piece of information that they didn't have yet (on which they can send extra material, doctors or ... which might safe crucial time).

If you've already called an ambulance and help is on its way, but the situation changes and the victim worsen's or symptoms change: phone again and add the information. Once again, they can already send extra material and win time so do not wait to explain it to the ambulance officers.

2) Don't hesitate to give someone CPR

Heart failure is still one of the top causes of death and 70% of the heart attacks take place outside of a hospital. In Belgium that is 6600 deaths per year.

When you see someone that lost consciousness and is no more breathing: do not hesitate even if you've never had CPR training before.  The victim has best chance to recover if the emergency services are alerted within 2 minutes and CPR is started within 3 minutes.  The heart massage will ensure blood keeps pumping and circulating through the organs.  It's not mandatory to ventilate the victim if you don't know the victim and you feel uncomfortable. The most important thing is to massage the heart.

So...always first ensure you are safe yourself and phone 112 in Europe. Tell them specifically that someone is out of consciousness and not breathing (=> the ambulance will be followed by doctors with reanimation equipment).

Then clear the chest and place your hands centrally on the thorax (not the belly, still on the ribs!) and start pushing firmly in the rhythm of "Staying alive" from the Bee Gees. Firm means that you push 5 cms into the body, so it's not superficial!!
If you'll ventilate, then the latest protocol in Europe is 30 pushes, 2 breaths , 30 pushes, 2 breaths.  But if you do not want to ventilate or you forgot how much was when: the important thing is to keep firmly pushing!! Ask other people around if anyone can search an AED. Keep going until the ambulance is there to take over. 

Our trainers were very blunt:  a person who is not breathing is technically death.  If you do nothing...the person will remain death. You're attempt to help cannot make the situation any worse! So do something!   Do not expect that you'll revive the person on your own, but you make recovery more likely when doctor's arrive with medication and professional AED's.

So what to do?  
1) phone 112 (and leave phone on speaker: they'll guide you through the CPR and keep the connection until the ambulance is with you!)
2) Try CPR ("Staying alive staying alive, ha ha ha ha , staying alive")

Other things that I did not know myself
- Ambulance officers are trained and experienced professional first aiders but they are no nurses or doctors.  They are often part of the fire department.
(and when they ever doubt the situation of a patient, they'll always call for a doctor or bring the patient into the hospital, because they cannot make the final judgement).
- When you phone 112 in Belgium you arrive at a central for ambulances and fire departments as a result. They transfer you to the police if needed (or you call them directly via 101).
- Ambulances are dispatched from fire departments or other ambulance dispatch centers but not from hospitals.   I've watched too much "spoed" when I was a teenager because I thought ambulances left from a hospital.
- Keep an eye out in your frequent environment to know where to locate AED's: in your office, your sport's club etc?  It's good to know for the day you might need one. I'm happy to see that my employer invested in one of them...a safe place to work, as I stated before.


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