Take the first step to save a life
Sometimes it doesn’t take much to save the life of someone close to you. Basic CPR training, which comes as part of first and training, could save a life, says Fintan Breen, head of national services at the Irish Red Cross. He tells Brian Hayes Curtin about how the Red Cross hopes to improve the rate of first aid training in Ireland
“The key point is you never know when you need first aid. The majority of stats show that you will need it at home, in the workplace or in school. Stats show that people are much more likely to respond to people they know like friends, family members and colleagues.
“It’s very important to be able to react in an emergency,” he says.
Research by the charity shows that only five per cent of people in Ireland are trained in first aid.
Fintan Breen says that “if only five per cent of our population know first aid then that’s only one person in every 20”.
“Statistics show accidental burns, falls and poisoning are among the leading causes of deaths and injuries in Ireland for children aged 0-14 years old and that 55 per cent of deaths of young children and adolescents resulting from injuries could have been prevented.”
Fintan himself initially learned first aid in school at the age of 16 with the Red Cross. He was already involved in the local Red Cross when they came to his school.
“I’ve used it on a number of occasions at home, treating small cuts, bruising and even burns. I’ve also used it in public. Quite a few people see road traffic accidents and collisions. It’s important to know what to do and what not to do.”
Fintan says that doing little things like stopping traffic to ensure the situation isn’t exacerbated can be very important. Giving basic assistance and even knowing how to hold a head properly after an accident can be beneficial.
Knowing what not to do can sometimes be more important, such as not lighting a cigarette at an accident, particularly if the fuel tank may have been ruptured.
In that vein, Fintan cites other examples like the old wives tale of putting butter on a burn. Not the right thing to do, he says. On the contrary it is quite the opposite; you shouldn’t put an oily substance on a burn, water is best.
People have perceptions that are sometimes wrong, he says. “When people have nose bleeds, their heads should be held forward, not back.”
Basic first aid courses include CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), which could really make a difference.
“For somebody who goes into cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease by ten per cent for every minute,” he warns.
A friend, family member or colleague will probably be closest and can vastly improve chances of survival.
The Irish Red Cross has called for first aid training to be made compulsory as part of school curriculums and driving tests.
With 95 per cent of its population trained in first aid, Norway is the leading country in Europe for first aiders, followed by Germany and Austria at 80 per cent. The difference between Ireland and Norway and other countries with a high percentage score is that they have laws that make it compulsory either at school, at the workplace or even when applying for a driving licence.
Compulsory training helps build communities that are more resilient to the various risks to which they are exposed. Having to do first aid training to get a driving licence has been compulsory in Austria since 1973, while in Norway, children learn basic first aid techniques at school. The Hungarian Red Cross has been authorized by the government to train people in first aid skills; otherwise drivers do not get their driving license.
“The fact that, 70 per cent of European countries - including Ireland - have decided to make first aid training compulsory at the workplace is encouraging and a step in the right direction but it’s not enough,” he adds.
21 September was Irish Red Cross First Aid Day. To celebrate, the charity has released a series of family first aid tips and a free first aid poster guide to download for homes, schools and workplaces on its website www.redcross.ie.
The website also has details on where people can take first aid courses. There are regular courses all over the country.