As a first aid instructor I hear that statement all the time. “Why bother with first aid training when emergency services is only a 911 call away”. It’s true, in the BC Lower Mainland we are blessed with an enhanced 911 system that gives emergency services tremendous information even if we are unable to speak. We have an ambulance service and paramedic program that is second to none in the world and fire department personnel that are highly skilled and often located right in our neighbourhood. We also have hospital emergency departments and trauma units that are staffed with some of the most highly skilled medical personnel in the country. So really, why do we need to worry about first aid training with all this going for us?
It comes down to a simple matter of minutes. In the BC Lower Mainland, the average response time for emergency services to arrive is 12 minutes. In the circumstance where someone is not breathing, their brain is being deprived of life giving oxygen. If that situation goes uncorrected, the brain begins to die in 4-6 minutes and in about 10 minutes, it can become irreversible leading to biological death.
Lets look at those numbers again, the brain begins to die in as short as 4 minutes. Biological death in 10 minutes. Emergency Services arrives in 12 minutes! We have an emergency services system that is stretched to it’s limits but this is only part of the cause. Statistics show that if a serious incident happens, it often takes 2-3 minutes before a decision is even made to call 911. Fumbling for the phone, confusion over the location, distraught callers all add to the delay. Finally the call is placed but then precious seconds pass as 911 extracts the essential details from the caller and activates the appropriate services. Finally the emergency crews scramble and get on the road. Even if you live right next door to the fire department, you would be pushing that 4 minute limit. Now add to that, the problem if the local ambulance station or fire department crews are already on calls and have to be dispatched from a more distant station. With all these delays, the hands of the clock progressively tick closer to that 4 minute mark.
This is where first aid comes in. The neighbour, co-worker, friend or family member with first aid training use their skills to recognize the emergency in the early stages and if needed, maintain a supply of oxygen to the brain until emergency services arrive. In my years as a paramedic, I’ve seen the difference that a first aider can make. Many times that difference is life and death. You can’t over emphasize the importance of first aid training , the first aider is a critical link in the emergency services chain that we simply can’t live without!