Saving Lives: A Guide to the 7 Steps of First Aid

Providing first aid during an emergency can help save someone’s life before professional medical care arrives. Knowing what to do in those crucial first few minutes after an accident or medical emergency occurs is critical. Follow these 7 basic steps of first aid to assess the situation, protect yourself, and provide the best care possible.


First aid refers to the immediate care provided to someone who is injured or suddenly ill. The goal is to stabilize the person, prevent further harm, and promote recovery until more advanced medical treatment can be administered. While first aid is not a substitute for professional medical care, taking quick action and following standard procedures can greatly improve outcomes. By learning and practicing these 7 key steps, you can become empowered to potentially save a life.

1. Assess the Scene and Call for Help

Your first priority when coming upon an emergency situation is to make sure the scene is safe for you to approach. Look for things like broken glass, spilled liquids, exposed wires, or other hazards. Next, call out to the victim to gauge their level of consciousness. If there is no response, ask any bystanders what happened and if anyone has called 911 or the local emergency number. If you are alone, call or have someone else call 911 or emergency services right away. Provide the location, what happened, how many people are involved, and the status of the victim.

2. Evaluate the Victim

Once the scene is secure, quickly check the victim for responsiveness. Gently tap their shoulder and ask loudly, “Are you okay?” If there is no response, position the victim on their back, open the airway by tilting their head back, and check for breathing. Look, listen, and feel for breaths for 5-10 seconds. If they are breathing, monitor carefully for any changes in breathing pattern or mental status. If there are no signs of breathing, begin CPR if you are trained or provide chest compressions only if you are not.

3. Control Severe Bleeding

Uncontrolled bleeding is a leading cause of death from trauma. If you see large amounts of blood, apply direct pressure on the wound with a clean cloth to control blood loss. Elevate the injured area if possible. If bleeding soaks through the cloth, add more material on top- don’t remove the original bandage. If the wound is on a limb and there are no signs of broken bones, also apply a tourniquet above the injury to further restrict blood flow.

4. Check Circulation

Once breathing and bleeding are addressed, quickly check the victim’s circulation. Indications of adequate circulation include normal breathing, coughing, movement, and speaking. Signs of poor circulation include weakness, dizziness, rapid breathing, and pale, cold, clammy skin. Positioning the legs higher than the heart can improve blood flow. Loosening any tight clothing and keeping the person warm helps support circulation.

5. Watch for Shock

Shock occurs when the body does not get enough oxygenated blood. Signals include restlessness, nausea, thirst, dizziness, fatigue, and changes in consciousness. To counteract shock, keep the victim still, warm but not hot, and elevated. Do not give food or drink to a person in shock. Monitor vital signs closely until emergency medical care arrives.

6. Monitor the Victim Constantly

Keep a close watch over the person’s condition at all times, noting any changes in breathing, circulation, consciousness, or other signs of worsening. Be prepared to provide rescue breathing, CPR, or first aid care as needed. Comfort and reassure the victim. If they need to vomit, turn their head to the side. Do not move a victim with a potential head/neck injury unless necessary. Keep detailed notes on what you observed and the care you provided for emergency responders.

7. Protect Yourself Against Infection

When providing first aid, it is vital to avoid exposure to blood and other bodily fluids which could transmit infections. Use protective equipment like gloves, goggles, and masks if available. Cover any cuts or abrasions before administering care. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water when finished. Promptly dispose of any soiled dressings, wiping up spills with an absorbent material then cleaning the area with a disinfectant.


Following these 7 steps of first aid can greatly improve outcomes for victims of accidents and medical emergencies. Quickly assessing the scene, calling for skilled assistance, addressing life threats, monitoring the victim’s condition, and protecting yourself are all key actions to take until professional responders arrive. With training and practice, anyone can become better prepared to provide first aid when it can make the biggest difference – in those first critical minutes. Being empowered to potentially save a life by knowing what to do until help arrives is an ability well worth having.

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