Initial First Aid Care

Initiating a scene size-up and initial check for first aid care

When rescuers approach an emergency situation, it is vital to perform a quick scene size-up to verify if there is no longer an existing danger that might injure the rescuers. A quick assessment of the area such as the existing situation, general type of problem (whether it is an injury, accident or attack), severity of the problem (minor or severe) and the number of victims that need rescue all accounts for the  initial first aid assessment. Majority of First Aid Training teaches rescuers to do a quick survey of the environment since it is the most important and sensible thing to do before approaching a victim. Moreover, most First Aid Courses usually include basic and intermediate proficiencies in quick response assessment before actual first aid skills.

Learn more about Initial First Aid Care with this YouTube video.

When sizing-up an area for emergency disasters always check if the area is safe. It is critical that rescuers don’t rush into an unsafe scene. It may be necessary to call emergency services such as the fire department or paramedics if the area is dangerous such as the presence of broken power lines, heavy smoke and fire.

Upon reaching the victim, immediately check to see what is wrong and correct any urgent life-threatening conditions first. If there are two or more victims that are present in the scene, go to the quiet and motionless ones first and secure the victim to a safe place. If there are no immediate threats to life, do a quick physical check and gather as much information and history about the victim and his complaints.

Primary Inspection for First Aid Care

Based on recent surveys, the majority of individuals who take lessons in first aid fail in their first practical exam for a First Aid Certification mainly because they fall short in their assessment skills in first aid. It is important for a rescuer to do a primary check to determine whether there are life-threatening problems that requires quick intervention. Ideally it will only require a few seconds to complete a primary check, unless immediate care should be done at any point during the primary check. The steps involve during a primary inspection should involve the following:

  1. Checking for responsiveness and breathing

If the victim is alert and responsive upon first contact immediately ask his/her name and what happened. If the victim responds to his/her name and is aware of the situation then the victim is alert. If the victim is motionless, the rescuer must first determine if the unconscious victim is responsive and breathing. By gently tapping the shoulders and asking “Are you okay?”will let the rescuer know if the victim is conscious. If there is no response, the victim is considered unresponsive. When checking for responsiveness, make sure to also assess the victim’s breathing and ask if he/she has difficulty in every breath. Finally, for victims who are unresponsive and have absent breathing, immediately perform CPR.    

  1. Check for any signs of active and severe bleeding

Perform a quick assessment for any active bleeding or external wounds by doing a head to toe inspection as well as checking for blood-soaked clothing or pooling of blood on the ground where the victim is lying. If there is bleeding, apply pressure to the wound to prevent further blood loss.

  1. Positioning the victim correctly

Properly position the victim is an important step in providing immediate first aid care. For an unresponsive victim lying face down, position the person onto his/her back so that CPR can be initiated if needed. After performing cycles of CPR, have the victim turn his/her body to one side (recovery position) in order to clear the airway and prevent the tongue from falling back into the throat. This position is also permitted for suspected spinal and neck injuries.   


Alton, T. et al (2012). First Aid, CPR and AED Standard 6th Ed. Jones & Bartlett Learning


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