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First to Arrive at an Accident Scene? Steps You Can Take

If you are the first person to arrive at an accident scene, it is vital for you to be calm, be alert, and put safety first. Particularly your safety.

Here are some steps to take.

  1. Park your vehicle off the road, out of traffic, a safe distance from the accident—100 to 200 feet away, preferably before (not beyond) the accident scene. Two reasons: 1) Leave space for emergency vehicles at the accident scene itself. 2) Use your location to forewarn oncoming traffic (in your direction of travel) that an incident lies ahead.
  1. Turn on your vehicle’s hazard flashers. Activate any other signaling devices you have available: flares, reflective triangles, flashlights, strobes.
  1. Contact emergency responders. If cellular service is available, call 911 on your mobile device. Be ready to pinpoint your location as best you can. Look for landmarks, milepost markers, anything that can make it clear where a response team needs to report. If cell service is unavailable, confer with others who arrive at the scene. One of you needs to drive the nearest roadside outpost where help can be summoned.
  1. Stay in contact with the dispatcher. Ask for guidance on how to respond. You will likely be asked to assess the accident scene and the condition of the people involved. Think twice before approaching the accident scene if you see fire, smoke or pools of gasoline. Watch out for broken glass. If it if safe to approach vehicles involved in the accident, put each vehicle in park and turn off the ignition.
  1. If people are injured, it is best to not move them unless they are in danger of fire or an explosion. Ask your dispatcher for advice.
  1. If you are not a medical professional, offer only basic physical aid. Do not attempt to provide advanced medical assistance if this is not your area of expertise. Administer CPR if you are trained in that practice. Make an effort to stop serious bleeding. Otherwise a good citizen’s best service often is offering simple comfort and encouragement to those involved in an accident. Providing sympathetic company or holding an injured person’s hand can be a tremendous help.
  1. Consult with first responders when they arrive. Share your observations with the pros and turn the situation over to them. Provide your contact information if requested. If they have no further need of your involvement, it is good to clear the scene of an accident as soon as possible. Leave knowing you have played an important role in bringing a a bad situation to its best possible resolution.

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