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What is the Primary Survey and why is it so important?

If you have ever taken a first aid course, you will have heard the phrase ' Primary Survey' but what exactly is it and why is it important?

What is the Primary Survey?

The primary survey is the first casualty assessment that you complete. The purpose of the primary survey is to ensure that you find and deal with the most life threatening conditions first and foremost. Using the primary survey, you can rapidly treat each emergency before moving on to the next.

Life threatening emergencies include (but not limited to):

  • Choking

  • Anaphylaxis

  • Cardiac arrest

  • Unconsciousness

  • Severe bleeding

  • Shock

We use the acronym DRAB to remember what the primary survey is:

What is the primary survey - Fleximed first aid training


D - Danger

Check the area is safe. You are no help to anyone if you become injured yourself so it is important to ensure your safety at all times. If there are any hazards that are safe to move then do so.

Dangers can include traffic, flood water, electricity and animals. This is not a full list, but it gives you an idea.

R - Response

Once you have deemed the area around the casuality is safe, you move on to response. Gently squeeze or tap the shoulders and ask loudly 'are you alright?' - now this may seem a silly thing to ask a person that is seemingly injured, however it is good way to check levels of alertness, and also the casualty, if concious, will be aware that you are there to help them.

A - Airway

If there is no response, then you need to open the airway using the head tilt/chin lift method

B - Breathing

Check, look and listen for any breathing.

If breathing normally: then place them into the recovery position.

If NOT breathing normally: Arrange for an ambulance, ask for an AED. If there are other people around send someone to the nearest AED point. Begin CPR. if you do not have access to an AED then continue with CPR until professional help arrives.

You may also see the acronym DRABC - the added C stands for Circulation/CPR - often the C is added to the B for breathing instead to form DRAB (as above)

Please remember that information here does not replace attending a first aid course.

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