What is the primary survey in first aid?

When you see someone collapse on the street, what are the things you should consider first before initiating emergency first aid?

If you saw an incident, what would you do first? It’s easy to panic and rush to help the person in the most pain, which is often the opposite of what you should do. Without understanding how to survey a scene, you are more likely to put yourself and others at risk.

In this blog, we will be defining the questions you should ask yourself when surveying the scene of an incident. These questions are:

  • What’s happened?
  • Is there any further danger?
  • Is there help available?
  • How many casualties are there? 
  • What emergency services are needed?
  • Who needs help first?

What happened?

  • You need to explore and establish what exactly happened.

    Is there further danger?

    • Can it happen again?
    • Is there a risk of fire, explosion, collapse, chemicals, traffic, electricity, gas and drowning etc?

    Can you cope with the situation?

    • Ask any bystanders to help.
    • Use others to make the scene safe (e.g. traffic control at road incidents)
    • Avoid individual tasks. Take charge and allocate jobs to others instead.

    How many casualties are there?

    • This information is vital for emergency services.
    • How many appear to be seriously injured?

    What emergency services are needed?

    • What is the exact location?
    • Any fire service and rescue?
    • Any ambulance service?
    • Any police service?

    Who needs help first?

    • Assess the casualties using the “primary survey”
    • If there are multiple casualties, you have to direct others on what to do.

    How do you do a primary survey?

    The priorities of treatment are making sure that oxygen gets into the bloodstream and that the blood carries it into the brain.

    The primary survey is a fast and systematic way to find and treat life-threatening conditions in priority order. Use DRSABC to remember the primary survey sequence.

    DRSABC will be explained below.

    • Danger - You have to make sure that the casualty and any bystanders, including the first aider, are safe.
    • Response - Shake the shoulders and ask loudly (both ears) “Are you all right?”. If they respond, keep them still, find out what’s wrong and get help if needed.
    • Shout - Shout for help and ask a bystander to call 999 and get an AED (if available).
    • Airway - Check if the airway is clear/open. Identify and treat any life-threatening airway problems, such as airway swelling, narrowing or blockage. If unconscious, tilt the head back and open the airway.
    • Breathing - Look, listen and feel for normal breathing for no more than 10 seconds. In the first few minutes after cardiac arrest, a casualty may be barely breathing or taking infrequent, slow and noisy gasps. DO NOT confuse this with normal breathing. If in any doubt, prepare to start CPR. A casualty can sometimes have a seizure-like episode when the heart stops. Thus, carefully consider if the casualty is breathing normally.
    • Circulation - Identify and treat any life-threatening circulation problems, such as heart attack, heart failure, severe bleeding, poisoning, anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest. When life-threatening problems have been ruled out or treated, the primary survey is complete. 

    Where can I find primary survey in first aid training courses and qualifications?

    The Mandatory Training Group is the leading UK provider of accredited statutory and mandatory training courses for all sectors, including health and social care, education, local government, private companies, charitable and third sector organisations.

    Alternatively, you can contact our helpful Support Team byclicking hereto tell us your requirements for primary survey in first aid.

    Training courses and qualifications for primary survey in first aid

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