Awareness and First Aid

In a stressful situation like a car crash, fire or flood, your body will likely go into a “fight-or-flight” response – an automatic physiological reaction.

The perception of danger triggers an acute stress response that prepares your body to fight or flee. The resulting adrenaline rush leads to an increased heart rate, heightened blood pressure and inability to think clearly.

“Staying level-headed in a medical emergency is key,” says Tiaan Meyer, Branch Manager for ER24 Vaal. “As first responders, ER24 paramedics need to be able to assess the situation immediately. If it’s life-threatening or multiple people are hurt, every second counts. We need to be able to think calmly and logically.”

While many people start freaking out at the first signs of trauma, the good news is you can learn to stay calm in an emergency. This will enable you to take note of your environment, find potential escape routes, and relay important information to the ER24 operator when you call 084 124.

Here are some tips from the experts:

Learn basic first aid. If you know how to do CPR, staunch a bleeding wound, bandage a fracture, deal with a spinal injury and assist someone who is choking, you’ll feel more confident when faced with a medical crisis.

Focus on one goal. Don’t try to manage every aspect of an emergency. Identify what is most pressing, such as getting people out of a burning house, performing CPR or speaking with an ER24 operator. Focus on that one important aspect and apply yourself 100%,” says Tiaan. If necessary, try to find someone to deal with family members on the scene who may be distressed and might interfere with the work you’re trying to do.

Be decisive. Once you’ve taken control of the situation and formalised a clear plan, don’t be afraid to break a few social rules. If you have to order total strangers around, do it. If you have to rip expensive clothing, do it. Breaking a window or kicking down a door is also acceptable if the situation demands it.

Look after yourself too. Take the time to breathe deeply. If you tell your body you’re calm, your mind will follow. “Don't panic if the situation suddenly goes from bad to worse, don't be afraid to admit if you're confronted with something you don't know how to handle,” says Tiaan. “Rather call 084 124 for immediate backup and assistance.”