Be prepared to save a life

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Most people have heard the expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to injury prevention, this couldn’t ring more true. If the right precautions aren’t taken, accidents can happen anywhere and at any time. It is very likely that at some point, you will have to deal with a first aid emergency—if you haven’t already. Would you know how to help someone who had been hit by a car or fallen down a set of stairs? What if your spouse had a heart attack or one of your children cut themselves in the kitchen?

Home safe home?

Our homes are our havens, a place where we are most likely to feel safe and secure, but even there, many types of emergencies can happen. More than half of injuries among seniors occur
while they are walking or doing household chores, and injury in and around the home is the leading cause of death among children and youth in Canada. These statistics are alarming,
especially since only one in seven people are trained in first aid and know how to properly respond in the event of an emergency.

First aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training teaches people how to recognize the signs and symptoms of medical emergencies, and how to respond quickly and effectively.
It also gives people the confidence and courage to act when an emergency situation occurs. Being prepared in the event of a medical emergency can often mean the difference between
life and death. In addition to saving lives, first aid can reduce the chance of permanent damage, prevent an injury from becoming more serious and minimize the extent of medical treatment required.

Minutes count

When someone is seriously injured or ill, the most important thing to do is to call 911—but it will take time for the emergency medical services team to arrive. If the person has stopped breathing, permanent brain damage is likely to occur four to six minutes later, and the average ambulance response time is over eight minutes. That can seem like an eternity when a loved one is in need of help. Knowing how to provide first aid in those critical minutes can make a significant difference.

Learn more

First aid and CPR courses are available for individuals, groups, workplaces and first responders. These courses often use a variety of teaching methods and hands-on practice to help the course participants learn and retain skills. This helps ensure they are comfortable with the skills learned and will be able to apply them when needed.

Participants learn how to prevent injuries and to think, react and improvise in emergency situations. These skills can be invaluable, not just in a situation where you are providing care to someone else, but also for yourself. In addition to being trained in first aid and CPR, there are simple steps you can take to minimize your risk and ensure your home remains a safe environment.

  • Keep all emergency numbers by your phone and keep your phone within easy reach.
  • Clear a path throughout your home. Move objects that could cause a trip or fall (e.g.,electrical cords, throw rugs/scatter mats, newspapers, magazines and general clutter).
  • Be sure you have enough light to see where you are walking at night. Keep a night light on in the bathroom, bedroom and hallways.
  • Prepare for power outages; keep a flashlight in all areas you use often (bedroom, kitchen, living room) and remember to change the batteries regularly. If you or someone you care for uses a walker, keep a small flashlight in the basket of the walker.
  • Never mix household cleaning products. Read the product label and use as directed.
  • Make sure your electrical items do not have frayed, split or broken cords, and keep them safely tucked away so they do not pose a tripping, falling or accident hazard.
  • Keep walkways, driveways and outside stairs to your home free of clutter, and ensure they are properly maintained during the ice and snow season. Keep road salt and sand handy to throw on outside walkways and stair areas.
  • Have adequate lighting at all entrance ways on the inside and outside of your home.
  • If you or someone in your home has mobility challenges, consider installing ramps to replace stairs, secure stair railings or mount “grab bars” in the bathroom. A home safety assessment will identify any safety risks or hazards.

Benefits of CPR/AED training

Red Cross CPR courses cover the skills needed to recognize and respond to cardiovascular emergencies, and also include training on the use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

Those trained in AED use can assess a person in cardiac arrest and use an AED unit to deliver a shock to the ill person’s heart if required. AED units can now be found in many public places, including community centres and airports.

A one-day CPR course teaches important life-saving skills, including how to:

  • recognize signs of breathing and circulation emergencies;
  • call for help;
  • treat someone who is choking (conscious or unconscious);
  • perform CPR; and
  • use an AED.

To find out more about courses in your area, visit www.redcross.ca and search for First Aid and CPR.

Signs and symptoms of a heart attack

  • Squeezing chest pain*
  • Problems breathing
  • Abdominal or back pain (more common in women)**
  • Cold, sweaty skin
  • Skin that is bluish or paler than normal
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Denial
  • Jaw pain

* Not everyone experiences chest pain during a heart attack.
** Men may have these signs as well.

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Jody Hales

About Jody Hales

Jody Hales, RPN, CPSO, is a Quality and Risk Specialist with the Canadian Red Cross. She has progressive experience in both the acute health and community care sector. As an employee of
the Canadian Red Cross for the past 12 years, Jody uses strategy, knowledge and insight to inspire teams to focus on client safety.

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