Attending to a Crash Site
by Ken Han
Safety is commonly viewed as accident prevention, and one of the fundamental missions of the CRW is to offer a safe riding environment for members and guests. However, crashes can occur. If you come upon a crash scene, there are measures you can employ to help ensure the safety of the victim(s) and others at the site.
Be Prepared. Pack the following safety essentials before heading out on a ride.
• Identification, insurance, and emergency contact informationThis doesn’t have to be your bulky wallet. A photocopy of your driver’s license, insurance card, and some names and numbers written down, is all you really need. Carry this in a plastic sandwich bag or similar to protect from sweat or rain. Carry this on your person (not in a bike bag).
• Plastic glovesThis may sound strange, but preventing cross contamination between you and the victim is extremely important. The gloves are also very helpful when fixing flats! Boxes of inexpensive latex (or hypo-allergenic plastic) gloves can be purchased at pharmacies and restaurant supply stores. Just be sure to pack them in a way to prevent punctures.
• Mobile Phone or Change for Pay PhonesYou are not expected to treat any victims at a crash scene; in fact you can make things worse. Your focus is to bring in emergency medical personnel, so carrying the means to contact them is critical. Also, many EMS personnel are trained to look for the name “ICE” (In Case of Emergency) in your phone should you ever be the victim.
• Pen and PaperA crash scene can be a chaotic and it can be easy to forget details. Carrying a simple piece of paper and something to write with will help in recording information about the accident and also copying down any contact information about the victim(s).
• Know About ConsentIf a victim is conscious, you must obtain consent before you can administer first aid. To obtain consent, state your name and tell them of any first aid qualifications you have. Then ask the victim if you can help. Explain what you think is wrong and what you are planning to do. If the victim refuses help, you still may call 9-1-1 or other local emergency number. If the victim is unconscious, consent is implied.
• Understand Good Samaritan LawsAll states have some form of Good Samaritan Laws to shield caregivers from liability suits. In Massachusetts, there are several laws, but it all comes down to this: nobody is required to offer medical care, and those with special qualifications such as EMS personnel, certified CPR caregivers, medical doctors and nurses are safe from personal liability. In other words, it is your choice to get involved, and how much you get involved should be based on your qualifications.
Attending to a Crash Scene. Now the unthinkable has happened. You have come across a crash scene.
• Don’t PanicIt may be easier said than done, but keeping a clear head and being able to focus and make good decisions can make the difference between life and death. Furthermore, your calm presence will also calm others. First, think about who is already there and whether you are needed. In many cases, others are already taking care of the situation and you would only add to the confusion. Second, think about what you are qualified to do, and what you are physically able to do. If you can help, ask if you can help. If you are first on the scene, and you decide to get involved, take charge until someone more qualified arrives.
• Check the SceneInitially, your goal is to check the scene of the crash and determine whether you, any victims, or bystanders are in immediate danger. If there is immediate danger, for example, if the victim is in the middle of the road or near harmful materials, consider moving the victim to somewhere safer. If there is no immediate danger, only move the victim if he or she is preventing access to a more seriously injured victim. Furthermore, only adjust the position of the victim to administer first aid, CPR, or other care. In serious accidents, movement of the victim can lead to further injuries, so only move the victim if you absolutely must. Wear plastic gloves, and if the victim is conscious, obtain consent before moving him or her. Try to quickly assess the injuries as best you can. Is the victim unconscious? Is the victim not breathing? Is there no detectable heartbeat? Is there serious bleeding? Are there any visible fractures? A “yes” to any of these means serious conditions that need to be attended to immediately.
• If needed, Call 911 or the Local Emergency NumberIf it is a serious accident, your mission is to get help on the scene. Even seemingly minor crashes can cause serious internal injuries such as concussions and internal bleeding. It is always better to err on the side of caution, so if there is any doubt, call for help. Be prepared to give the dispatcher the location, the number you are calling from, your name, what the situation is, who is involved, conditions of all the victims, and what care, if any, is being given. If others are attending to the crash scene and you want to delegate this taskassign it to someone rather than asking for a volunteer.
• Care for the VictimIf you are qualified to offer CPR or first aid, now is the time to do so. If you are not qualified to offer aid, step aside and let someone who is qualified care for the victim. Attend to the victim as best you can until EMS arrives by helping the victim stay conscious and calm through conversation. To help prevent shock, try to keep the victim from getting cold. If there are signs of overheating or heat stroke, try to keep the victim cool. Once help arrives, describe everything as best you can to the EMS personnel.
Follow Up. After the victim is under the care of medical professionals, you can still be of help by following up with other issues.
• Gather Victim InformationBefore handing off to medical personnel, try to copy down the victim’s emergency contact information and where the victim will be treated. Consider contacting the people on that list, and inform them of the situation. If the crash occurred during a CRW ride, contact the CRW Safety Committee ( ).
• See to the Victim’s PossessionsTo be courteous, you may wish to gather the victim’s possessions. You can have another rider watch them while you get a car or vice versa. The victim’s emergency contact person will most likely take care of the possessions until the victim can claim them back.
• Follow-Up CallTo go even further, you may wish to contact the victim at the care site. A friendly call from a fellow cyclist might be greatly appreciated and could provide peace of mind about the victim’s bike and other articles.
To obtain more information about the Massachusetts Good Samaritan Laws, refer to:
Remembersafety is about choices. What choices will you make?