Public Safety Announcement: Scene Safety

The importance of scene safety in emergency situations is emphasized endlessly to first responders and health-care personnel around the world, but nonprofessional rescuers all too often overlook or forget about it. The single most important rule in emergency response is to avoid creating additional victims.

Whether that means pausing to assess the sea state before swimming to an injured diver or refusing to enter a tank storage room that has caught on fire, you have a duty to put your safety first. The concept of scene safety is not about heroism or concern for self; it's about doing the greatest good possible for the most people. If you become injured while attempting to render aid, fewer people will be able provide help and more will need attention and resources that could have been used to help the original victim(s). The results of well-intentioned heroism can be both tragic and catastrophic. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you're faced with an emergency.
Reach or Throw, Don’t Go
The U.S. military, the American Red Cross and first responders worldwide are adopting a new adaptation of a well-known recommendation to "reach or throw, don't go." The concept is simple: If a person in the water is in trouble, you should attempt to reach the victim from safety with an outstretched hand or any sufficiently long object or throw a flotation device to the person but not get in the water to attempt a rescue unless you are appropriately trained and equipped.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Real emergencies have a way of giving even the best-trained responders tunnel vision. Lay people and professional health-care providers alike may fail to slow down and honestly assess the scene of an emergency before proceeding to care for the injured. Wherever you are when an injury occurs, stop, take a few breaths, and do a full 360-degree sweep of the area — it might just save your life.
Protect Yourself
We all should have personal protective equipment (PPE) in our first-aid kits and readily available at our dive sites. These gloves, face masks and other items are essential for preventing contact with bodily fluids and, perhaps, diseases. PPE is one of the least exciting but most essential aspects of emergency preparedness. With gloves and masks as cheap and readily available as they are, there's no excuse for not keeping yourself safe.

© Alert Diver — Q4 Fall 2018