3 Basic Concepts of First Aid

Published 17 February, 2020

Understand the basics before you start to administer first aid


Written by The Preparedness Team

Knowing how to administer proper aid to someone who just sustained an injury is an invaluable skill to have. Proper care given to a victim could save their life. Improper care could not only seriously harm the victim, but also endanger the care giver. Below we outline some very fast and basic checks to do prior to and during administration of first aid.

First Aid

Immediate care given to a victim suffering from bodily related injury or illness. Primary treatment used to treat initial injury or illness and prevent further harm. Actions taken to stabilize a victim with serious life-threatening conditions prior to professional medical care.


While the below 3 fundamentals are by no means completely comprehensive, we think that general adherence to these fundamentals greatly improves the efficacy of administering first aid to a victim.

1 – Check to make sure the scene is safe


This is vital for your own well-being. There is a reason why every Boy Scout and US soldier are trained to do this first – to minimize the number of victims. In the military there is a saying: slow is smooth and smooth is fast. This isn’t to say approach a scene with a microscopic level of analysis and take a bunch of time away from treating the victim, it is to say to take a few seconds to really evaluate the situation and if it’s safe for you to start administering first aid. It is much better and easier to treat one victim instead of two.

We’ll go through an example. Imagine you are driving down the road at night and come across a wrecked car on a highway with a little bit of traffic. You can see someone moving and lying on the ground and are ready to administer first aid. What do you do in order to start doing so?

You might initially consider things like where to place your car so as to impede traffic, or where you might actually treat the victim that isn’t in the roadway. Is there anyone else available that can help you? Do you have any signaling devices that might help you keep traffic away from the scene of the accident? You need to consider how safe it is for you to get involved, what the environment around the scene looks like, and if you have the materials required to treat the victim.

2 – Get help


Provided you have the time, you will want to seek immediate assistance, especially if the situation is serious. If you are traveling with someone, immediately have them call 911 as quickly as possible if the situation warrants you to do so. Have them explain the scene, where you are, and what the surrounding environment looks like.

If you aren’t with someone, then start reaching out to people around you if you are in a public area. Get someone to do the communicating while you are performing first aid.

If this isn’t an option and you are truly alone, then stabilize the victim's condition first. As soon as you can, get on the phone and call 911. Put your phone on speaker phone if you’re able to, and keep administering first aid. If you are performing rescue breathing you will have to get creative about getting help, but it can still be done. And you will absolutely need help doing chest compressions for minutes on end.

In our car scenario, help could do any number of things. Another person could call the authorities and get emergency personnel on their way while waving down traffic and getting other drivers to slow down around the crash site. In the case of rescue breathing, any help is appreciated, and two people can take turns doing chest compressions, keeping the victim's blood flow circulating. Help can also assist in applying direct pressure to a serious wound and prevent severe blood loss.

Ideally, you are not alone to start administering first aid. If you are, find a way to get help as quickly as possible, but don’t sacrifice care to the victim in order to do so.

3 – Communicate well


You must be clear and concise with your communication to individuals helping you, or anyone else who comes on the scene. The first person you need to communicate well with is the victim! If they are conscious, start talking with them and see what happened and how you can help, as well as get consent to start treating them. If they are not conscious, then there is a whole different approach you need to take when administering first aid to them.

Tell other people exactly how to help and where they can assist. If they cannot assist you in administering first aid, then ask them to help control the scene. You need to stay cool, calm, and collected. Your goal needs to be to stabilize the victim's condition and the scene long enough to get the victim to the best care possible.

When the authorities come, thank them and let them take over. Tell at least one paramedic what kind of aid you administered. There will undoubtedly be questions in the case of a serious incident. Just calmly explain what you did when you arrived at the scene and give times of treatment as best as possible. For example, if you had to apply a tourniquet to the victim, make sure you note what time that tourniquet was applied and tell that to the paramedics. It is a good idea to video record this conversation, so you have a tangible record of the event. Be sure to get the names and contact information of the paramedics and the victim. If someone can record the entire encounter between you and the victim, all the better.

Lastly, thank the fellow volunteers. You should also record as many of these conversations as possible. These recordings will not only provide good records of the event, but also might be used as training. You properly administering first aid and documenting it might be what helps someone do the same in the future. Memories change and fade with time, so it is a good idea to write down or record what happened as quickly as possible, in the event some sort of legal action arises in the future.

We hope you follow these fundamentals. Just remember you need to know when the scene is safe, know what to do for the victim, and know how to direct and communicate with others. Following these simple steps might not only save the life of a victim, but also prevent further injury or harm to others.

To check out what we believe to be the essentials of any first aid kit, click here. Share this article if you found it useful, and look out for more information about staying up to speed in all things preparedness.

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