When I teach First Aid or CPR, the first American Red Cross mantra you learn is “Check, Call, Care.” You Check the scene for safety, Call 911 if it seems necessary, then provide Care. It all seems so simple and logical in the classroom. But for all that seems to make sense, the reality is that the compassionate urge in us to save others often overrides that sensibility. Humanity cries out in pain and we respond, often forgetting about what is most important – ourselves.
Tragically, this very scenario played out a few days ago in Los Angeles. On August 22, a car lost control and hit a light pole, then knocked off a fire hydrant. The injured driver was in the car when he was spotted by a woman witnessing the event. Without hesitating, her husband said, the Los Angeles resident hopped out of her car to help him. Not realizing the situation involved the electricity, she was died immediately as she stepped in the electrified water to rescue the driver. To compound the tragedy, a second woman was also electrocuted while trying to pull the first rescuer to safety. (1)
Stories such as this are extraordinarily sad. Here is someone trying to do the right thing, extending a hand to someone in need, then paying dearly for that self-less act. This is not something that happens only to the untrained, either. Records show that even highly trained rescuers can succumb to this irresistible urge. Two years ago in New York, one volunteer fireman collapsed in a manhole when another volunteer fireman noticed and went in to rescue him. Both men died from suffocation. (2)
We learn and we prepare, but we also need to remind ourselves that our most important asset is ourselves. Be prepared and be ready to act. Just make sure the first life you save is your own. Only then, can you help others.