No one ever wants to need an emergency lifesaving skill, and realistically, there’s a good chance that you never will – but if you ever do, the stakes will quite literally be a matter of life and death.
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While you may have learned some of these skills years ago in Scouts or health class, you’re probably rusty on most of them. If you weren’t in Scouts or your health class wasn’t comprehensive, you may never have encountered these at all. Familiarize yourself with these basic lifesaving skills so you’ll be prepared if you’re ever in an emergency.
No surprises here – CPR is one of the most important lifesaving skills you can possibly have, and taking a course with a trained instructor is ideal. If you don’t get the chance to attend a course, though, at least know the basic steps.
If someone has stopped breathing or doesn’t have a pulse, call 911 immediately. Give 30 chest compressions at a rate of about two per second, pushing down about two inches per compression; then tilt the victim’s head back, pinch the nose, and blow into the mouth until you see the chest rise.
Give two breaths and return to the chest compressions, alternating until the victim starts breathing or help arrives. For an adult, use both hands and push with your full upper body weight; for a child, use only one hand; for a baby, use your middle and index finger. The Mayo Clinic has a more detailed description of how and when to perform CPR.
2. The Heimlich Maneuver
Unlike CPR, the Heimlich maneuver doesn’t require specialized training. If an adult or child is choking and cannot breathe, cough, or speak, stand behind them and wrap your arms around their waist. Make a fist with your dominant hand and place it just above the belly button with your thumb facing in, then tightly grasp the fist with your non-dominant hand. Thrust upward and inward quickly several times with both hands.
If a baby under one year is choking, place them face down on your forearm, tilted downward so their head is lower than your chest, and use the heel of your hand to strike them hard between the shoulder blades five times. If that doesn’t dislodge the object, turn them on their back, and use two fingers to thrust inward and upward at their breastbone. Alternate back blows and chest thrusts until the object is dislodged.
3. Stopping Bleeding
Blood can’t coagulate if it’s still flowing freely, so you need to stop the bleeding in order for the wound to heal itself. According to the Mayo Clinic, if someone is suffering from severe bleeding, you should clear any obvious dirt or debris from the wound, and then apply pressure to the wound with a sterile bandage or clean cloth.
Tape it in place if you can, but use your hands to apply pressure if you can’t. If the person bleeds through the cloth, don’t remove it; put another one on top instead. Help the person to lie down, and raise the injured part above the level of the heart so that gravity will help you keep the blood down.
When the bleeding has stopped, immobilize the injured part and get the person to emergency care.
4. Saving A Drowning Person
According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third most common form of accidental death worldwide, with 372,000 people drowning every year. Unless you’re a trained lifeguard who knows how to swim in and rescue someone directly, you should never jump into the water yourself and try to pull the person out; they might frantically grab hold of you and pull you under with them. The easiest way to remember how to save someone is “reach, throw, row, go.”
If the drowning person is close, brace yourself against the dock, poolside or pier to prevent yourself from being pulled in, and then try to reach for them with a long pole, a towel, an oar, or another long object. If the person is too far away, throw out a safety ring connected to a rope.
Your next option is to row out in a boat, if available, taking a safety ring or something to reach with you so you can get to the person more quickly. As an absolute last resort, go after the person, but bring a ring, oar, towel, or other long tool with you so the person can grab the other end and you can tow them to safety without being drowned yourself.
5. Exiting A Burning Building
You did fire drills several times in school, but chances are you haven’t had any for your office building lately, and you certainly won’t find them organized for every hotel or department store you enter.
The most important thing is to have a fire escape plan from your own home, walking your family through all possible escape routes and exits and setting up a meeting place outside (like the mailbox or the house across the street).
The Red Cross recommends planning two escapes from every room, including doors and windows. If you’re in a public place like a hotel, government building, or hospital, there will probably be an emergency escape plan posted somewhere.
Regardless, if there’s a fire and you’re inside a room, touch the doorknob to see whether it’s hot before opening the door. A hot doorknob indicates that the door is the only thing between you and the fire. If there’s smoke, crawl low to minimize your chance of inhaling smoke.
If you are completely trapped, with no valid escape routes that aren’t completely blocked off by fire or debris, close the door, put a wet towel under it, and wave a brightly colored cloth out the window while calling for help.
6. Carrying Someone Heavy
Although it’s generally best to leave an injured person in place, there may come a time when you have to carry someone to safety. That person may be a child, but if they are an adult who is about your weight or heavier, you’ll need to use a fireman’s carry. Make sure the victim is breathing and has no risk of neck or spinal injury, and then roll them onto their stomach.
Kneel in front of the victim and hook your arms under their armpits. Then stand slowly, carrying the brunt of the victim’s weight in your legs rather than your back. When the victim is on their feet, put your right leg between their legs. Lean forward, draping them over your shoulders and taking their right hand in your left. Squat, keeping your back straight, and put the victim’s torso on your shoulders. Wrap your right arm around the victim’s right knee and stand. The victim’s right arm and leg should be in your hands and on the front of your body, and the rest of the victim should be behind your back.