HIGHVELD – The public plays a vital role at accident scenes as they are often the first people to call for an ambulance or emergency assistance.
They can also provide crucial bystander CPR when a patient is showing no signs of life or is not breathing. However, it is essential to clear the way for medical personnel or ambulances when they arrive at a scene to ensure that the patient gets the help they need fast.
Recently, ER24 medics responded to a scene where 15 people were injured following a four-vehicle collision in Alrode, South of Johannesburg. ER24 medic Mr Justin van Wyngaard said that because of the magnitude of the collision people were curious to see what had happened.
The crowd made it difficult for the medics to move through and access the patients who required urgent medical help.
He said it took five valuable minutes from where he parked to get to the other paramedics because of people being unwilling to make way.
Similar situations are also happening locally where emergency personnel must become crowd controllers instead of paying attention to the scene.
Mr André Momberg from ER24 in Secunda said the issue is not as severe locally, but an accident does draw attention, especially by people wanting to see what is going on.
According to Mr Momberg, only the emergency workers and other essential services such as the police, should be on the scene.
“It is also understandable that relatives of the injured or deceased will want to be allowed on the scene, but I ask others to be curteous and continue on their way. Crowding an accident scene strips the injured of their chance of being helped immediately.”
Mr Shayn van der Heever from Langamed South Services agrees:
“Crowding of accident scenes are escalating, especially on the roads between Secunda and eMbalenhle, eMbalenhle and Evander, and Evander and Secunda.”
He said the spectator value of accidents is what causes people to stop and stare.
“This also makes it difficult for paramedics to find a parking for the ambulance and to perform certain procedures on patients. Everyone has a smart phone these days and they stop and record.”
Mr Van der Heever suggests that anyone who is not playing a vital role on the scene but are assisting patients and securing the scene, such as paramedics, the police, the fire brigade and the traffic department, should rather disperse from the scene.
“If members of a volunteer group, such as the CPF, are helping to regulate traffic, they are considered needed, but if you merely stand around to observe, you are in the way and should preferable leave.”
Mr Alf Byleveldt from Jelani Security who also often responds to accidents, said if people have no vested interest in an accident scene, they should rather leave.
“People crowding are obstructive.”
As members of the public, the best thing is to always be aware of your surroundings. If medical services and the police have been notified and you hear the sirens or see them approach, move out of the way and give them space to park, work and walk freely.
What to do at an accident scene:
• Never pull someone from a vehicle unless the vehicle is actively burning and it is safe for you to reach the patient.
• Remember, your safety is the first priority.
• Never turn an overturned vehicle back on its wheels while a patient is still inside. Wait for fire and rescue services.
• Do not shake or pull on the vehicle or doors to try and free someone. Wait for fire and rescue services to use proper equipment to free the patient.
• Do not make contact with body fluids such as blood. Instead, ask the patient to apply pressure with their hand on a wound, if possible. Alternatively, ensure you have gloves on before rendering any first aid. Remember to wash your hands thoroughly before you return to your vehicle or home.