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Crowding an accident scene

The public plays a vital role at accident scenes as they are often the first people to call for an ambulance or emergency assistance. The public can also provide crucial bystander CPR when a patient is showing no signs of life or is not breathing. However, it is essential to clear the way for medical personnel or ambulances when they arrive at a scene to ensure that the patient gets the help they need, fast.

Recently, ER24 medics responded to a scene where 15 people were injured following a four-vehicle collision in Alrode, South of Johannesburg. ER24 medic Justin van Wyngaard said that because of the magnitude of the collision people were curious to see what had happened. The crowd made it difficult for the medics to move through and access the patients who required urgent medical help.

“It took about five minutes from where I parked the ambulance to get to where the other paramedics were and where they needed us. People didn’t want to move, and this takes precious time away from the patients who need our help immediately,” said Justin.

Justin continues saying that “it is usually the case at big collision scenes, as there are a lot of people and they aren’t always willing to move or make way.”

The crowding or reluctance to move doesn’t just affect the medics getting to the patients, but they now also have to concern themselves about the safety of the public around them.

“If there are about 25 bystanders standing close to us, we now have to worry about our patient, about ourselves and everyone standing around us. The safety of members of the public also become a concern especially when it’s a road accident, and the lanes haven’t been closed off for traffic. That’s why it is best to move back and stand on the sidewalk or next to the road. Give us some space to carry out our work,” said Justin.

As members of the public, the best thing is to always be aware of your surroundings. If medical services and the police have been notified and you hear the sirens or see them approach, move out of the way and give them space to park, work and walk freely.

What to do at an accident scene:

  • Never pull someone from a vehicle unless the vehicle is actively burning, and it is safe for you to reach the patient.
  • Remember, your safety is the first priority.
  • Never turn an overturned vehicle back on its wheels while a patient is still inside of it. Wait for fire and rescue services.
  • Do not shake or pull on the vehicle or doors to try and free someone. Wait for fire and rescue services to use proper equipment to free the patient.
  • Do not make contact with body fluids such as blood, etc. Instead, ask the patient to apply pressure with their hand on a wound, if possible. Alternatively, ensure you have gloves on before rendering any first aid. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before you return to your vehicle or home.

For more information on what to do at an accident scene, click here.