A while ago my dad and I were driving along a highway when a massive accident suddenly happened behind us. All we’d seen in our review mirrors were two cars flying across the road, sparks, smoke and pieces of car and glass all over the road.
When it was safe to do so my dad pulled over, turned on the hazard lights, told me to stay in the car and call an ambulance, while he rushed across the road to help.
A car had jumped a red light at high speed and hit a car turning in from the other direction. Both the cars had rolled and hit the pavement on the other side of the road and based on how still and quiet everything was, we weren’t sure if anyone was conscious or even alive.
Luckily, my dad had a fair amount of training when he worked with paramedics as a policeman back in the day. So he knew what to do and how to keep as calm as possible.
He knew not to move anyone in case of an underlying injury that could be worsened by movement, but when we noticed flames coming from one of the cars, he told those who could move to get out and carried the driver, who was unconscious, out of the car.
Once everyone was safe we waited for the ambulance while my dad kept everyone calm and phoned their families.
Assisting those in an accident can be terrifying, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing, but car accidents are a sad reality with our country’s high road death toll, making it likely that you’ll come across one at some point.
Arrive Alive suggests the following advice on how to handle an emergency:
What to do first
Pull your vehicle over
- Park in a safe position off the road.
- Turn on your hazard lights and headlights. (Any and all lighting that may help other motorists see that there has been an accident and slow down is necessary. Don’t put your bright lights on as this may temporarily blind oncoming motorists)
- If the accident is on a blind rise or bend, parking your vehicle back from the accident in a ‘fend-off’ position so vehicles see the accident scene may help prevent further accidents.
- Put out your warning triangles if you have them
What to do next
Phone ER24 on 084 124 , Netcare 911 or the Other Emergency Numbers below
084 124 is the national number which will connect you with ER24’s Contact Centre.
It is an emergency line where a call taker will request the following information:
- Your telephone number (to remain in contact with you should you be cut off)
- Your location (street name and nearest cross road)
- The details of what has happened, how many people are injured, whether there is e fire, etc.
This will allow the dispatcher to send the correct personnel from the closest area. In addition the call takers are able to give you telephonic advice as to what to do to help the injureed on the accident scene
Assisting the Injured
If you have a First Aid kit, take it out of your vehicle. Put on the rubber gloves that are inside the first aid kit.
Calm and reassure the people that have been involved in the accident. Make them aware you have called the emergency services and that help is on the way. This may be the only thing AND the most important thing you can do to help someone involved in an accident.
The most important principles when helping an accident victim are the following:
- Safety – Do not attempt heroics which may potentially jeopardise your own safety. Your safety comes first, before that of the injured. You are of no use to anyone if you become injured while attempting to help others.
- If there is any fire/ flames and you have a fire extinguisher, use it and direct the foam/ water at the base of the flames.
- Do NOT move the patient or attempt to remove them from the vehicle UNLESS there is an immediate threat to life (e.g. the car is on fire and you are unable to extinguish it). There may be an underlying injury to the neck or spine and unnecessary movement could make this worse.
- If the person is unconscious, open the mouth and check there is nothing inside causing obstruction.
- Check if the person is breathing.
- If the patient is breathing leave them in the position you find them and monitor them regularly.
- If the patient is NOT breathing and you have been trained to do so, you may begin CPR and rescue breathing as necessary.
- If a person is bleeding heavily from a wound, take any available material e.g. a t-shirt/ gauze from the first aid kit/ a towel/ a blanket/ etc, and place it over the open bleeding wound. Then press tightly applying direct pressure to the wound. Maintain that pressure until the emergency services arrive. Do not stop pressing to check if there is continued bleeding or to look at the wound. This procedure may save a persons life.
Being a bystander at an accident scene is invariably a stressful event. However if you remain calm, keep your head and follow the above principles, you could be instrumental in assisting, reassuring and even saving the lives of the accident victims. Ultimately we would all like to ‘Arrive Alive’.
Also read: 8 things to remember in an accident