What Should You Do at the Scene of an Accident?

By Steve Hardy, Dallas Fire Department

When you are on the road, sooner or later you’ll be one of the first to arrive at an accident scene.  What should you do?  What should you not do?  Here is how you can help us, as emergency responders, save lives and minimize injuries.

Park safely and use your rig to shield the accident scene from oncoming traffic if necessary.  Quickly place your flares or triangles – you don’t need a second accident.  If you see bystanders who are helpful, appoint a traffic guard to slow and divert traffic.

Call in the accident.  Report the location with highway number and mile marker or intersection.  When you call in the accident, we need to know who to send, how many to send, and what type of equipment to send.  How many people are involved?  What is the extent of the injuries?  Are people bleeding and breathing?  Are they awake?  How many vehicles are involved?  How serious is the damage to the vehicles?  Are there fatalities?  These answers will tell us if this is a “heavy rescue” requiring another truck, if we need to send additional MICU’s, if we need to send the Chief or an EMS Supervisor, and if we need to preserve the scene for a police investigation.

Go to the patients.  Are they awake?  If so, talk calm and slow.  Do not give them anything to eat or drink.  Assess their orientation.  Ask questions such as, “Who is the President?”  “What happened?”  “Where are you?”.  Ask what hurts.  If you need to hold them still, use both hands on both ears, and hold the nose even with the belly button.  If a motorcyclist is involved, do not remove the helmet and do not move the motorcycle – unless it’s on the patient.

When we arrive, we need a place to park that provides a safe triage/treatment area.  Tell us exactly what you found and what you’ve done.  Ask us if we need you to do anything.  If not, leave and get out of the way.

When we arrive, we will ask the patients questions to assess their level of consciousness.  We are looking for concussions, and behavior that is inconsistent with our original assessment.  We attempt to collect personal items in the vehicles and keep them with the patient as they are transported.

We are responsible for site clean-up – but we need to determine if this is a possible crime scene.  Fatalities, road rage incidents, suicides, homicides, domestic calls, or assaults require police investigation, and we must preserve the scene until the investigation is done.    We clean up spilled fluids, debris, and take care of any hazardous material spills.

Your first response to an accident scene is critical.  Someone needs to be in charge of the scene until we arrive.  Unless someone else is there who identifies themselves as a trained medical or law enforcement professional, we need you to take control.