Immediate Emergency Actions

  • Call 911 for serious injury: give the location of the incident and describe the incident and condition of victim. Do not hang up the phone until the dispatcher has dismissed you.
  • Provide first aid to the victim to the best of your abilities.
  • Wait for first responders to arrive and take over care of the victim: provide them with any information that you can.
  • DO NOT move any injured or ill person unless life-threatening circumstances are present.  Make the injured or ill person comfortable until first responders arrive.
  • DO NOT give the injured or ill person any medications other than their own. The person must provide at least verbal authorization.

NOTE: Some behaviors may appear to be drug or alcohol related, but may be the result of a medical condition.

Identifying Specific Medical Emergencies: 

Head Trauma: Injury following trauma to face and skull. To avoid furthering any harm, do not move a victim of severe head trauma; wait for first responders to arrive.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Severely worsening headache
  • Vomiting/nausea
  • Dilation of one of more pupils
  • Clear fluid leaking from nose or ears
  • Confusion and trouble with speech

Bleeding: Serious bleeding following laceration or puncture.

  • Types of bleeding: 
    • Capillary - minor bleeding usually caused by abrasion, vessels are typically able to clot and stop bleeding without intervention. Clean the wound and cover if the bleeding isn't slowing on its own.
    • Venous - damage to a vein that can generally be stopped by applying even pressure and a bandage. Wounds still may require stitches: consult a medical professional with any concerns or if bleeding does not stop in a timely manner.
    • Arterial - the most serious form of bleeding with a heavy, spurting flow of blood. Arterial wounds are usually deep and require immediate medical attention to prevent life-threatening blood loss. 

Seizure: Sudden surge in electrical activity in the brain. Move objects away from from a seizure victim to prevent collision and further harm.

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Uncontrollable muscle spasms
  • Clenched teeth and jaw
  • Rapid eye movements
  • Sudden collapse

Heart Attack: Failure or interruption in normal heart function potentially leading to incapacitation or death.

  • Pressure, tightening or squeezing sensation in chest, neck, back or arms
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sudden nausea and abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness and sudden dizziness and confusion
  • Note: Women may experience atypical or milder symptoms compared to men.

Stroke: Sudden death of brain cells due to lack of oxygen caused by blockage or rupture of artery.

  • Remember FAST: If the individual is exhibiting one or more of the following symptoms call 911 immediately.
    • Facial drooping - Ask the individual to smile; if one side of the mouth does not respond, this is facial drooping. 
    • Arm numbness or weakness - Ask the individual to raise both arms in front of their body: if one arm drifts down, this is a sign of sudden arm weakness. 
    • Speech problems - The individual may have difficulty forming words or sentences. 
    • Time - A stroke is a serious and often fatal medical issue. Getting the individual professional help as quickly as possible could be the difference between life or death. 

Alcohol Poisoning or Overdose: Dangerous loss of normal bodily functions following excessive doses of alcohol or drugs

  • Nausea/vomiting 
  • Unresponsiveness and unconsciousness
  • Irregular or slow breathing
  • Abnormal skin color (pale and bluish or fully flushed)


First Aid Resources

Register for a Red Cross First Aid course near you

Specific first aid procedures