When the unthinkable and unimaginable unfolds right in front of you, such as a catastrophic vehicle crash, a range of emotions and thoughts flood through your body and mind. How we manage these thoughts and emotions in that moment will determine what will roll out over the next few minutes, sometimes hours, possibly the rest of your life. And that is why we need to take the step of ‘Assessing‘ prior to actually acting.
So what does it mean to Assess? I mean, really do it properly? Let’s put a case study in front of you so we can work through it.
You are driving your truck. It’s been a reasonably long day and has pressed into the evening a little. But you are nearly finished. You just wish this drizzling rain would go away. You are stopped at a red light. For an unknown reason, a car directly opposite you shows no sign of slowing as it approaches its red light. Traffic is moving across you from left and right. You tense up cause this doesn’t look like it’s going to work out well! You find yourself saying out loud “Don’t do it! Stop!!” But, no. It continues on into the cross traffic and …… the most almighty crash and destruction scene happens right in front of you like a horror movie. A medium sized sedan is T-boned by a Four Wheel drive with a bullbar.
What now? It’s all too easy to jump from your truck and rush to the scene, but is this really the best first action? Probably not. It will, however, be your first instinct. The bigger the incident, the more the adrenaline will influence your decisions and actions. But you need to pause for a second to be of the most effect here and now. I have a 3 step process to slow me down and bring my ‘rational mind’ back into the game.
Feel what’s under my feet. Take note of what I’m standing or resting on.
Look at the sky. Notice the colour, or if dark pick out some stars.
Listen to my breath. This will focus me on how my nerves are progressing.
I use these 3 steps when I suspect I might be rushing, panicking or just moving too quickly to make good decisions. The reality is that this process takes a very short amount of time, maybe 10 seconds at the most, but it means my efficiency increases and my clarity of thought makes for better situational awareness.
So why do I need situational awareness? Because the biggest by product of an event such as a vehicle collision is the Danger that is created to all concerned as a result. We know the patients are in danger, but we now add danger to bystanders and to ourselves as well. And these need to be considered and acted upon as a matter of urgency.
Also as part of your Assess process, it’s going to be a no brainer that emergency services are going to be needed. Sum up the scene in front of you, take a second to think about where you are (location is the single most important detail of the 000 call) and have a quick think about what you are going to say to the 000 call taker. Key words such as “high speed vehicle accident, car struck by another car whilst running red light, there is traffic, pedestrians, fuel spilling, power poles down”, etc. This will enable the call taker to accurately despatch the appropriate resources.
You will need to follow up with more information in the next step, but what we have talked about here forms the basis of Step 1 – Assess.
So in summary, slow down your mind, get a grasp on the situation with regard to Dangers to yourself, bystanders and the patient/s and make a clear call to 000 with the location and nature of the incident.