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Save a Life: 6 Skills Everyone Should Know

  • Feb 07 / 2012
Smith Home Security Blog


The world is a dangerous place, but with some basic knowledge, common sense, and a cool demeanor, you can ensure that you come out of most emergencies unscathed. You can never anticipate what may happen, but with these few skills, you can be prepared for any situation.


1. CPR or Cardiopulmonary resuscitation: CPR methods have changed over the years, but the principles remain the same. If the victim is unresponsive, call 911, then begin chest compressions if they’re not breathing normally. The rhythm of the compressions is (appropriately) the Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive”. Tilt the victim’s head back making sure the airway is clear and give 2 one-second long breaths through the person’s mouth. The recommended pattern is 30 chest compressions then 2 one-second breaths. Continue this process until the victim begins to breath or help arrives.

2. The Heimlich Maneuver: If faced with an adult who is choking and cannot breathe, the Heimlich maneuver can free the foreign body responsible. There are 2 steps to the recommended technique: 1) from behind the person, wrap your arms around the back of the victim, forming a fist below the victim’s ribcage but above their belly button. 2) Grab your fist with your other hand and press into the victim’s upper stomach/abdominal region. Continue to do this until the foreign object is coughed out. The Heimlich maneuver is modified for children so before you attempt it on a child, get formal training.

3. Preventing Hypothermia: Hypothermia occurs when a person’s core temperature drops below normal, impairing normal muscular and brain functions. Some symptoms are uncontrollable shivering, loss of coordination, becoming drowsy, or a noticeably slower breathing or heart rate. To start treating hypothermia, bring the victims inside out of the cold, remove any wet clothes, and wrap them in blankets or a sleeping bag. Making sure that they drink warm fluids without caffeine or alcohol will also help stabilize their temperature.

4. Controlling Bleeding: If you are ever faced with a substantial cut, quickly apply pressure on the wound. In order for the blood to coagulate, or clot, it needs to be stopped from flowing freely. Apply pressure to the wound, preferably with something sterile but a towel or ripped t-shirt will work as well. If possible, you should also elevate the wound above the heart to help slow down the flow of blood.

5. Providing Aspirin for Heart Attacks: In addition to ordinary pain relief, the FDA suggests aspirin to help treat heart attacks. Aspirin acts as an anti-inflammatory and a blood thinner, which helps blood pass through the large clots that tend to lead to heart attacks. If you suspect someone of having a heart attack, call 911, then check to make sure the aspirin won’t react negatively with other medicine they may be taking. Then give the person a standard 325 mg dose of aspirin and tell them to chew and swallow it.

6. Help With a Severe Allergic Reaction: With the increasing rise of allergies to common foods like peanuts, milk, and wheat, it’s important you know what to do if someone appears to be having a severe allergic reaction. Call 911 right away, then try and talk to the person. Ask them if they’ve ever had a reaction before and if they possibly have an EpiPen (a shot of epinephrine). If they have an EpiPen, but can’t administer it their selves, you will need to give them the shot. Instructions should be printed on the outside of the pen and should be easy to follow. Be prepared to give CPR if need be.

Taking a class, such as a Red Cross CPR/First Aid training course, will help you gain the experience and confidence to use these skills. An added bonus is that the certification looks great on a resume. You can never be too prepared for an emergency, and knowing these skills can help save your life or someone else’s.

Photo by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

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