Reacting in an emergency: What to do

Megan Cloherty,

WASHINGTON – The question of how to help in an emergency is top of mind after learning many people passed by a bloody man in Arlington as he lay dead or dying on the sidewalk. Arlington police say the man had been hit by a car.

Surveillance video taken by a Metro bus shows riders and pedestrians passing by the man, not checking to see if he was okay.

It is difficult to know what to do in an emergency, says Mark Brady with Prince George’s County Fire and EMS. He says someone without medical or military training might not know how to react quickly when they see an emergency situation.

Here is what he suggests:

  1. At the minimum, call 911. If you see someone in distress, it is imperative to get medical professionals en route to help.
  2. Go up to the person and shout at them, asking ‘Are you okay? Are you okay? Do you need help?’ If you don’t get any reaction, after you’ve called 911, stay with the person until emergency personnel arrive.
  3. Call for help yourself, loudly. People are more likely to come to the aid of someone who is urgently requesting help. Yelling for help is likely more than the victim can do and you have a better chance at getting the attention of someone with medical training.

Based on the injuries the man sustained, Brady says “that person was probably not conscious.” But he stressed the urgency that any person in distress needs to “get help and get help fast.”

When responding to an emergency without medical training, those helping are protected by law.

“It’s good to know that without that specialized training, you’re protected from civil liability with Good Samaritan laws,” Brady says. “All the states and District have a Good Samaritan law that protects you if you act in good faith to help a person out in a situation like that.”

Every state has a Good Samaritan law or act to protect individuals that aid a victim during a medical emergency. So too goes for laws in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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