2016 First Aid Changes

Some of you will be aware that little changes were made in 2016-7 to first aid training. The good news is that nothing hugely significant changed (in our opinion) but there are a few points that you need to know about. Come see us in class to practice.

We Changed the Emphasis

We’ve added more to the course about preparing to respond. After all, you need to be ready to help. The course includes topics like “the bystander effect” – which is best explained as ‘everyone assuming someone will do something… but no-one does’. There’s clear information around consent, the law, fear of doing something wrong, etc.

Check, Call, Care and The ABCs

ABC children's blocks
These topics remain the same. You’ll be glad to know that if you come to class you’ll be practicing the same CPR we’ve taught for years. However if you were in one of the low quality courses we’ve been hearing about and you weren’t taught both breaths and compressions, well you need to find a competent instructing team (ahem!).

Recovery Position

We changed it. No, we didn’t. Well look, it’s gone from “you must do it this way” to “put them in recovery position”. Come to class and experiment with the various methods.


Another topic that changed, but didn’t. Again we’ve moved from the prescriptive “do this then this” to a more practical approach of “do what works” and if it doesn’t work, try something else.


They’re back. Look, we know there are arguments about this and lots of back & forth over the years. Still, they save lives. Which is the first of the 3 Ps. So use them appropriately when necessary.

broken heartMental Health

We’ve said for a while that it would be coming to the new training books and here it is. A whole new section on mental health crisis and how we might be able to help people in needed. Including a brief overview of potential signs of suicidal intent.

There’s More

OK, look, those were the major changes. But there are a few tweaks as well: concussions, cardiovascular emergencies, goodbye ‘Frostnip’,  chest injuries, more information on poisoning, the Foundations of First Aid. Well, you’ll se when you get to class. (Does not apply to OFA courses – these changes are still to be announced.)

Your Certificate

It’s still valid! Just because things change, you can still stick to what you were taught already and not be wrong. Until the certificate expires of course. Remember where the course schedule is once you get close to your renewal date. We’ll see you in class soon.


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Yes, they’re back in the First Aid Book once again. (Remember as always, we are a Canadian Training Company – your country may have different rules!) The use of tourniquets is always a source of debate in First Aid Training. They certainly save lives, but there are downsides too. So let’s take a look.

Tourniquets – Life Savers

Tourniquets save lives. There is no question – in the case of life-threatening bleeding, if you can’t stop the person bleeding by any other means then their use is justified to prevent the person dying. The current First Aid training is to use one if:

  • The bleeding cannot be controlled
  • You are unable to reach the wound to stop the bleeding
  • You must move the person in such a way that pressure cannot be maintained by other means.

Defense.gov photo essay 081106-D-1852B-012.jpg
Demonstrating the application of a C.A.T. by Fred W. Baker III – This Image was released by the United States Department of Defense.

Tourniquets – Tricky things

They can cause damage and tissue death by preventing blood flow. That’s what they’re intended to do of course, but it’s not just the wound that no longer gets blood flow.

They are painful. To actually apply enough pressure to stop blood flow hurts.

They risk reperfusion injuries and compartment syndrome (and these are bad things we’re not discussing today).

Tourniquets – Your ‘Need to Know’

Use a dedicated (professional, manufactured) tourniquet whenever possible. If you don’t have one, improvise as best as possible with materials around the scene.

Apply it one hand-width above the wound and at least two finger-widths away from a joint (you can’t compress a joint space effectively).

Tighten it until the bleeding stops. You should probably tell them it’s going to hurt. (They may already be telling you this). If you’re using one appropriately, it doesn’t matter as much as the impending risk of death.

If possible apply the tourniquet to bare skin to reduce the risk of slipping.

Document the time it was tightened by writing the time on the person’s skin.

Communicate the use of the tourniquet to EMS or others who take over care. People who have had a tourniquet applied need to be in hospital a.s.a.p.

Get yourself some training; it’s what we do after all.

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The Foundations of First Aid

The following five steps will help you to organise your approach to treating those in need. These Foundations of First Aid are found in the back of the current Red Cross training manual.

Foundation 1: Protect Yourself

Your safety always has to come first. This is something we emphasise in every course as you’ll know if you’ve taken one. If something happens to you, who is coming to help? Maybe no-one, so ensure you are safe to act. This can include telling people to stay still; checking for obvious dangers like fires or an avalanche; turning off a vehicle ignition; or even keeping other people away from the accident scene. Protecting yourself also includes using appropriate PPE (like gloves or a barrier mask).

Foundation 2: Act!

Do something. Maybe you’re worried to act, or scared of doing something wrong. The chances are that the person who has been hurt just wishes you would do something. Do the best that you can. Doing something is always better than doing nothing, even if all you can do is call for help and be comforting. Of course, if you take training you’ll be able to do much more.

Foundation 3: Remember the Basics

In current training, there are just three basic steps:

  • Check
  • Call
  • Care

Check the scene for dangers (protect yourself) then check the person – are they conscious? Are they just asleep? Are they unresponsive and in need of an ambulance? Are they breathing? Are there signs of circulation? You know the drill – there’s lots of things in the ‘check’ before we move onto Call.

That doesn’t always mean you have to call an ambulance – it means you need to think about it. Is an ambulance needed? Should you call the child’s parents? Do you need to call the workplace manager? Are you going to call someone else with first aid training to help you?

Last comes care. Yes, it’s the last step, but it’s also the thing people think of as ‘real’ first aid. This is the bit where you apply bandages, tie slings or do CPR. But look how far you’ve already read down this page. There’s a lot you can do even if you haven’t got to your training course yet. (If you’re local, our training schedule is here – jus’ sayin’.)

Foundation 4: Activate EMS

Really, if you don’t know what else to do, just get professional help on the way. We can all use a phone and this may just be the thing that saves someone’s life.

Foundation 5: Prioritise

Care for the most serious condition first. It may not be the person who is crying – it could be the quest one who isn’t breathing. Check out The 4 B’s for First Aid for more information or just sign up for a course.

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We changed the recovery position (again)

Well, kinda. Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you will know that first aid has had some revisions. One of these changes was to the recovery position. Until recently if you came to class, you would have seen and learned the HAINES recovery position. The theory for this was that it would help someone who had a spinal injury by putting less of a twist on their spine.

No more HAINES?

The problems with this were… well first of all, there was never any actual evidence that it does help people with spinal injuries. Sure, it sounds great in theory, but no one knows if it actually makes a difference in practice. Along with that, it was difficult to do without just rolling the casualty face down in the dirt. Which apparently, they don’t like much.

So, what’s the new teaching?

Well that’s the cool thing – the new training is ‘put them in recovery position’ but there’s no actual “you must do it like this” in the student’s books. You need to know the principles of the recovery position:

  • Airway not blocked by tongue
  • Chest positioning for easier breathing
  • Stable position on their side so they won’t roll back

But there’s no specific prescribed way to achieve this – it’s all class practice. You should also:

  • Support and protect their head when rolling them
  • Roll them all at once (head, body, legs all together)
  • Check ABCs after you have completed the roll.

Come join us in class and test your practice on your own and as a team. Today we practiced single rescuer and three rescuer teams; casualty on their back and casualty on their front. As we were at a gym, we also practiced with casualties who had collapsed over various pieces of equipment. Hopefully your instructors take time to make the new training relevant to your needs.

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