IN THE last week of July, a field near my children’s school self ignited in the heat. My wife, who was just arriving to collect them, witnessed the start of the fire and was stunned by the speed of the flames, which had almost, within seconds, spread over the whole area of about 300 metres. Thankfully, the flames were stopped by the concrete in the school area.
My wife described the scene as shocking, particularly the panic that the fire caused in the school. Children running around in black smoke, trying to find their parents and teachers. Parents frantically looking for their children. Luckily, nobody was harmed, because the emergency procedures were carried out in the right way.
This accident gave me the intiative, dear reader, to review our emergency procedures:
1. Only practise makes perfect. I would like to encourage you to simulate an emergency situation in your home with your family, preferably a fire. Practise the exact plan of action. Locate the fire exit and carry out an emergency evacuation of your house. Let all family members participate so that you can see where problems could be. If you can’t vacate your house quickly and safely with a mock fire, it could take you much too long in a real panic. Needless to say that fire alarms can safe lives.
2. Check all your emergency equipment regularly. Do you have the emergency telephone numbers on the landline phone and in the memory of your mobile phone? Is the first aid equipment and the fire extinguisher in good working order? Nothing delays more than having to search for a phone number or a bandage when seconds could matter.
3. Prioritise and organise. Someone has to be in charge. Try to do first what is most urgent and likely to be of benefit. Don’t lose yourself in unimportant details.
4. Always bear in mind that the safety of the helper comes first. There is absolutely no benefit in you getting killed, while you carry out first aid procedures. Secure the area of accident, remove dangerous substances and call for help early if necessary.
5. Carry protective gloves, a torch and an insulating blanket in your car.
6. If you are waiting for an ambulance, put a helper out on the street or if your house is difficult to find, ask them to meet the ambulance at an arranged point. Ambulances can waste crucial minutes searching for a property. If your Portuguese is rusty, prepare the instructions on how to find your house in Portuguese on a piece of paper, which you can just read out to the person on the phone.
And here are a few tips
for specific situations:
• In a heavily bleeding wound, the best way to stop the blood is local compression and elevation. Arm yourself with a glove and press a finger directly onto the point of strongest blood flow.
• In an accident, always assume a cervical spine injury until proven otherwise. Never move the victims before checking the neck and, in unconscious patients, apply strict cervical spine control.
• If you suspect an electric accident, always make sure that the main fuse has been switched off before you touch the victim. Electric shocks can cause a reaction similar to an epileptic fit. Have a high level of suspicion. Do check for live wires and other dangerous substances around the patient.
• In severe allergic reactions, it is extremely important to stop the allergen exposure. Remove the bee sting!
• If someone has fainted, leave the person on the floor. Check for foreign bodies in the mouth, elevate legs and, if there is no response, put the patient in the rescue position and call for help.
And last but not least consider going on a refresher first-aid course!
Wishing you a happy and healthy August.
Your Dr Thomas Kaiser
Medical Director of the Family Medical Centre in Quinta do Lago.
• Dr. Thomas Kaiser can be contacted on 289 398 009 or via e-mail at [email protected]
Dr. THOMAS KAISER