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Advice From an Emergency Responder

Updated on February 18, 2019
Angus noder profile image

Angus was a firefighter/EMT, and can help you make your situation in an emergency situation go smoother, resulting in a better outcome.

They already work hard, don't make it harder on them!
They already work hard, don't make it harder on them! | Source

General Emergency Tips

Car crashes

First things first, don't get out of your car unless under immediate life safety threat. The most hazardous work space in America is the highway. Also, you just crashed, so unless you are just the recipient of a particular strain of bad luck, the initial reason for the crash is still there. Furthermore, there are things called "secondary incidents" These wonderful occurrences happen when you didn't heed my initial advice and decided to step out in front of a person who is too busy texting to bother looking for an obstruction, such as yourself. So, assuming that you don't have any major broken bones or injuries. I would first isolate the scene using traffic cones in the summer, and flares in winter or when there is no fluids leaking. See, Flares are basically fire but worse. It burns bright enough to cause temporary blindness, and although newer flares are better, create slag. That is just melting burning stuff that drops off the flare, and loves to start fires. Don't do that. That's another condition that would lead to a secondary incident. Isolate the scene so there is as little risk of other drivers invading your scene. Flares and cones should be placed strategically, as in, if on a curve, place them at the start of the curve, or before the oncoming traffic reaches where you are at. If straight ahead, place them in a manner as to direct traffic around your site. This will give the trucks somewhere to come in, and keep traffic moving so they don't get stuck in line, waiting for "their turn" passing your incident site. If you are injured, and remember, this includes neck and back injuries. Don't move! the only exception to this would be an immediately dangerous situation that would keep you from remaining in the land of the living anyway.


Depending on the type of fire, it can have a few factors that would affect how to handle the particular situation. Is there anyone at risk in the environment? This could be a wild land, structure, or car fire. Is it a common combustible such as paper, wood, etc? Does it involve electrical or an accelerator? These may change quickly, so if possible without putting yourself in danger, ascertain this information and possible changes in the situation and relay that information to the 911 call receiver or the fireman that approaches you. The most important factor to remember is to attend to people first, not items, belongings or pets. The firefighters will do what they can to save your effects, but their priorities are life safety, property, and then the environment.

Much the same with car crashes make sure they have clear access. Your local knowledge of the situation could greatly affect the outcome, so it is important that you keep a cool head, even though the situation is dire. Make sure gates are wide open, perhaps put a person on the road with a flashlight or other signaling device. This aids them in correctly identifying the driveway to go into. Factors that they will want to know, is first if everyone is out of the building, if not, where they are thought to be at. Are there any specific hazards, gas tanks, propane tanks, location of the electrical panel, large dogs, and unique uses of the site. This is not the time to give them the whole rundown of your business, but if there are things that can fall over and injure personnel, they should probably know about that, and other complicating factors. If you saw where the fire started, they will want to know where to focus their efforts. If there are other people that made it out of the affected area, they will want to know that, and ask if you can account for everybody. The firefighters are not there to get you in trouble, again, their concern is life safety. Comply with their questions and aid their efforts to the best of your abilities.


Medical emergencies is a topic and a half in and of itself. The short version of this is, get them coming early. You can always cancel later. For someone with no first aid experience, show them the way, and relay what information you can about the situation. Keep calm and speak clearly to the 911 call receiver. The address, intersection, building, and room number the incident is occurring are the most important pieces of information you can relay. The second, very closely related to the first is what is happening. Is it a traumatic injury, a pre-existing condition, heart attack, or any variety of the multitude of conditions that can affect a person. Third, again, make sure they know where they are going with a guide if possible.

Environmental factors

There are some things that will help greatly with location access. My department offered road marking signs that were highly visible in all conditions. The advantage of this may not directly apply to you. Firefighters study roads and intersections of their district, and know them well. However, they are human, and may make a mistake in how far down a road they have gone. The reflective road signs can tell them how close they are to a turn or how many more houses they have to go to get to the scene. If your driveway has visibility issues, this can absolutely be a lifesaver.

The reason I stress a guide for incident response is that when they get there, it is a rush of information, and trying to figure out where to go should be the lowest on their priorities. It is something that even if you are incapacitated, can be accomplished with a flashlight, or even just an auditory signal. A whistle or yell “over here!” can get their attention in a hurry.

I live in the Pacific Northwest. Therefore, I have to deal with snow and ice. I also had to deal with snow and ice as a firefighter. Nothing is worse than the feeling that your boots are slipping when you have a patient on a backboard. As much as you can, please remove snow and ice. This doesn’t apply to just walkways, but also those reflective road signs that I mentioned above, and to hydrants as well. I can’t think of a worse time to have to dig for a hydrant than when it is already needed.

If wildfires are a concern, make sure you have adequate distance between your house and the surrounding foliage. This is accomplished by having a well maintained yard. It doesn’t have to be a perfectly cut lawn. Just make sure that the distance between your house and surrounding fuel sources is as far as possible. A good rule of thumb is one and a half times it’s height.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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