Safety First: Send for Help


Study Notes:

  1. 1.Recognize that you can’t be all things to all people.

  2. 2.Know what help is available to you, should you need it.

  3. 3.Know how to activate that help.

  4. 4.Call anytime - call as soon as you realize you need help: when dispatched, upon arrival, or during the call.

  5. 5.Be able to direct that help safely to where you are.

  6. 6.When considering calling for help, remember:  ‘better too soon than too late’ and ‘better too many than too few’.

  7. 7.It’s better to be a helper calling for help, than a rescuer calling for rescue!

“S is for Send for help”


“Safety First” ... Table of Contents

Safety    Use your BSI - Biological Safety

              F is for Fire - Scene Safety

I                 I is for Incident: MOI/NOI          

R                Determine the numbeR of patients

S                Send for help

T                Trauma to the C-spine?

G                General impression of the patient

E                Estimate LOAs

T                Threats to you or your patient?

1°A             1° Airway

1°B             1° Breathing

1°C             1° Circulation

1°D             1° Decision

2°A             2° Airway

2°B             2° Breathing

2°C             2° Circulation

2°D             2° Decision

Sometimes the helpers need help.

People call us when their lives are falling apart and the situation has gotten beyond their ability to cope.  Although there is a lot that we as paramedics can do that the general public can't ... we can't do it all.

A good rescuer knows when they need help, what help they need, and how to get that help to arrive quickly and safely to the right place.

Obviously, the first thing you need to know before you call for help is … where on earth you are!  Usually this isn't a problem because we call our dispatchers to get help to us, and they (should) know where we are.  However, if you are not where your dispatcher thinks you are, you need to let them know that.  You also need to let them know the best way to get to the scene (access) and the best way to leave the scene (egress). 

Remember … you can call for help at anytime.  In fact medics often ensure that help is requested as soon as we hear the dispatch update (i.e. asking for police to attend to a big fight). 

Sometimes we call for help as soon as we see what we are getting into, and sometimes we only realize half-way through a call that we need some help (i.e. when you realize that you are walking into to a meth lab). 

No matter when you realize you need help, as soon as you realize it, call right away.  There are two good rules to remember when it comes to calling for help: 

The first is: 'better too soon than too late’. 

The second is: 'better too many than too few'. 

The final thing you need to know when you're calling for help is ... what help is out there?

The folks you’ll call the most are usually the police, the fire department and, of course, other paramedics. 

The police help control traffic, they control crime scenes, they are the most credible legal witnesses to what happens on a scene and they are the wonderful men and women who step up when someone tries to hurt us - often at great risk to themselves. (God bless ‘em all*). 

The fire department helps contain hazardous materials, secure unsafe structures, fight fires, and they often go and get our patients and bring them too us when the environment is too dangerous for us to go in.

Other medics can help us to deliver patient care, especially if they have higher levels of medical training than we do.  They can help with lifting, or with just providing an extra pair of skilled hands. 

Calling for helicopter medical evacuation is often a good idea in remote areas where our land transport times are more than an hour or so. 

Some EMS systems have arrangements with their local hospital(s) to mobilize on-site physician teams for patients who are trapped but need care beyond the paramedic scope of practice.

Don't forget to call on your EMS supervisor when necessary - they are an often overlooked resource.  Some patients change their mind and decide they don't want your help, yet they won't sign your refusal form.  Other patients just seem like the types that are going to lodge a complaint regardless of what you do.  Yet other patients will listen to supervisors more than they will to you, just because they know that they are talking to ‘the boss'.  Your supervisor can also help by providing an authoritative legal witness to ensure that you fulfilled your professional duties and obligations to the best of your ability. 

Any dangerous animals (by which I mean just about every animal) should be handled by the experts - call the folks at Animal Control. 

Patients with needs that go beyond medical needs can be helped by social service agencies.

Dangerous environments often require speciality teams to get involved.  Some possible sources of help you can call on include:

  1. BulletHazardous Material Teams

  2. BulletTactical police and paramedic teams

  3. BulletMarine and diving teams

  4. BulletHigh and low angle rescue teams

  5. BulletEnclosed space, and trench rescue teams

  6. BulletSearch and rescue teams (wilderness and  urban)

  7. BulletVehicle extrication teams

  8. BulletDisaster response teams. 

Know which teams are in your area and what their abilities are. 

If your service doesn't have a lot of information about these teams this is a great opportunity to invite them in to do a 'show and tell' for you as part of your continuing education.

Know how to contact public utility crews as well.  Electrical crews, natural gas crews and water crews are all available to help you if you need them.

Know who can help you, and know how to call them.  Then, when you are in need, send for help.

That's the 'S' in Safety F.I.R.S.T.

* Thank you to all the wonderful women and men of the Toronto Police Force who helped keep me safe for 13 years.