Crash scene protocol during COVID-19
Credit: Lucian Alexe
Arriving first at the scene of a car crash is a difficult situation to handle especially if you have no experience in first aid or emergency services. Now that many South Africans are practicing social distancing, being the first at an accident is even more complicated than before.
If you are first at the scene of an accident all the same procedures apply except you should ensure that you always have personal protective equipment (PPE) in your car. “First, call for assistance and provide emergency services with accurate details. Then the main objective is the preservation of human life. Ensure your vehicle is off the road and out of the way of oncoming traffic. Use a triangle to warn oncoming drivers.
“Before you approach the car or any crash victims, ensure that you are wearing your face mask. As is the case at any crash scene, ensure that you wear gloves. If the injured individuals are conscious and not in need of your assistance maintain social distancing. You can also encourage them to help themselves where possible. For example, they may be able to apply pressure to their wounds. If the individuals are unconscious or in desperate need of help, it is more complicated.
“At any accident scene, if you are a position to perform a life-saving action, that should be the priority. Examples include removing people from burning cars or out of the road or if you are trained, performing CPR (do not forget to obtain permission from injured people who are conscious). Most people, however, do not have emergency medical experience and likely cannot do much more than call for assistance, remove the immediate danger from the vicinity and reassure the victims.”
Ultimately, you need to weigh up the risks against what level of help you can provide. “If there is something you can do that might expose you to the virus but could also save the life of the crash victim, you need to consider the risk versus benefit in deciding what to do. If, however, you can do no more than comfort a crash victim while you wait for help, the risk to both of you is not worth it. You need to decide what is the best decision for all involved, including yourself.
“It may be prudent to keep an extra mask and set of gloves in your vehicle so that in the heat of the moment if someone else required this, it is available. Arriving at a crash scene in the time of COVID-19 has become much more complicated. Ultimately, let the preservation of human life be your deciding factor,” advises Herbert.
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