We tend to feature many survival and emergency preparedness tips that could help you out of a fix, but what if you’re next to someone else who’s having an emergency? Know what to do in these life-or-death situations.
Now, to get the basics out of the way, in the event of any emergency, you should call 9-1-1. While help arrives, or if you’re in a situation where help may not get to you soon, knowing these 6 life-saving skills is crucial.
How to help someone who’s drowning
Drowning is one of the most common causes of accidental death, especially among children. If you’re not a strong swimmer, the most important thing to know is that swimming out to the person should be the last resort.
Reach: If the person is near the edge of a pool or dock, lie flat on the ground and try to reach the person. Use a tree branch, oar, towel, or shepherd’s hook to lengthen your reach. If you have to, get in the water and hold onto the pool edge or dock while trying to reach the person.
It’s best to take a class, so you know the proper procedures and have practiced them beforehand, but even watching a video on how to perform this procedure could save a life. “Hands-only” CPR can be done for anyone (except newborns) whose heart has stopped beating, according to the American Heart Association. With this technique, also known as “compression-only” CPR, you press down about 2 inches deep on the chest at a rate of about 100 times per minute until the paramedics arrive—and skip the giving breath part. According to one medical review examiner, singing the BeeGees’ song “Stayin’ Alive” will help you keep that tempo.
What to do if someone may be having a heart attack
Sometimes the symptoms are obvious with cardiac arrest (which would need CPR, above), and at other times they’re not so dramatic. After calling for help, if the person is over the age of 16 and confirms he/she isn’t allergic to aspirin—and isn’t taking any medications that could interact with it—offer a tablet of aspirin, which the Mayo Clinic says could reduce damage to the heart.
How to help if someone is choking
Choking occurs when a foreign object lodges in the throat or windpipe, blocking the flow of air. There are different techniques for children and infants, whose small tracheas and propensity to swallow random objects put the fear of choking into every parent.
The ‘five-and-five’ approach-
Give 5 abdominal thrusts. Perform five abdominal thrusts (also known as the Heimlich maneuver). Alternate between 5 blows and 5 thrusts until the blockage is dislodged. The American Heart Association doesn’t teach the back blow technique, only the abdominal thrust procedures. It’s OK not to use back blows if you haven’t learned the technique. Both approaches are acceptable.
To perform abdominal thrusts (Heimlich maneuver) on someone else:
Stand behind the person. Place one foot in front of the other for balance. Wrap your arms around the waist. Tip the person forward . Make a fist with one hand. Position it slightly above the person’s navel. Grasp the fist with the other hand. Press hard into the abdomen with a quick, upward thrust — as if trying to lift the person up. Perform between six and 10 abdominal thrusts until the blockage is dislodged.
Large or severe burns should be treated by a medical professional, but steps you can take beforehand are: Immediately after a burn, run cool water over the burn for at least 20 minutes, and also remove any clothing or jewelry, if possible. Then, cool the skin with a moist compress. Don’t put ice, butter or anything else on the burned skin. Clean the skin with mild soap and tap water. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, [Advil]) for pain. Simple burns involving only the very surface of the skin do not need dressing.
What to do if someone is bleeding
There are different kinds of bleeding, from minor cuts to artery damage. Your goal is to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. According to the Mayo Clinic, after washing your hands and putting on gloves (if available; a clean plastic bag could suffice), you should:
If the bleeding doesn’t stop, apply pressure to the artery: “Pressure points of the arm are on the inside of the arm above the elbow and below the armpit. Pressure points of the leg are behind the knee and in the groin. Squeeze the main artery in these areas against the bone. Keep your fingers flat. With your other hand, continue to put pressure on the wound. Leave the bandages in place and immobilize the injured body part once the bleeding has stopped.