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Recent Train Collision Underscores Need for First Aid and CPR Skills
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Red Cross
June 23, 2009

In the first moments after any transportation accident, it is fellow passengers and bystanders who are often the most important people present. And yesterday’s train collision in Washington, D.C.’s metro train system was no different. While the American Red Cross quickly arrived to set up a family reception site and provide care and comfort for families and responders, it was the train passengers who were the first on the scene and may have made the biggest difference.  

In yesterday’s train collision, passengers were reported to have given first aid to the injured—including reports of using clothing to bandage wounds and splint injured arms and legs. Many others stayed calm and helped traumatized and upset passengers to do the same, making it easier for rescue workers to do their job and get to the most seriously injured quickly. And it was passengers who reportedly helped to guide others out of the badly damaged cars.

This incident underscores the importance of being prepared for an emergency and to know how to give emergency care. If you use commuter trains, read the posted emergency instructions—and read them often. Know how to evacuate the train and which exits are the most easily accessible. The more you familiarize yourself with emergency procedures, the more likely you will remember them during an accident and be able to assist others.
If an accident occurs, remain calm and patient. Follow the instructions of officials, firefighters and police. While you wait for help to arrive, you can give first aid to the injured.  

First Aid Primer
If you encounter someone who is injured, apply the emergency action steps: Check-Call-Care. Check the scene to make sure it is safe for you to approach. Then check the victim for consciousness and life-threatening conditions. Someone who has a life-threatening condition, such as not breathing or severe bleeding, requires immediate care by trained responders and may require treatment by medical professionals. Call out for help and have someone call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. There are some steps that you can take, however, to care for someone who is hurt until help arrives.

Control Bleeding

  • Cover the wound with a dressing, and press firmly against the wound (direct pressure).
  • Cover the dressing with a roller bandage.
  • If the bleeding does not stop, apply additional dressings and bandages.
  • Provide care for shock.

Care for Shock

  • Keep the victim from getting chilled or overheated.
  • Elevate the legs about 12 inches (if broken bones are not suspected).
  • Do not give food or drink to the victim.
  • Comfort the person until EMS arrives.

Tend Burns

  • Stop the burning by cooling the burn with large amounts of water.
  • Cover the burn with dry, clean dressings or cloth.

Care for Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints

  • Rest the injured part.
  • Apply ice or a cold pack to control swelling and reduce pain.
  • Avoid any movement or activity that causes pain.
  • If you must move the victim because the scene is becoming unsafe, try to immobilize the injured part to keep it from moving.

Reduce Any Care Risks
The risk of getting a disease while giving first aid is extremely rare. However, to reduce the risk even further:

  • Avoid direct contact with blood and other body fluids.
  • Use protective equipment, such as disposable gloves and breathing barriers.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water immediately after giving care.

Read more on redcross.org to learn how you can prepare for emergencies. Red Cross training can give you the skills and confidence to act in an emergency. To get trained in First Aid and CPR/AED, contact your local chapter.

About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.

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