The Real First Responders In An Emergency Are Not Who You Think

You, Average Joe, Can Do More 

Often times, the first responder on a scene isn’t the police or firemen – it’s you. After you call 9-1-1 yet before emergency personnel arrive, someone has to be on the scene to take control of the situation.

These individuals are also known as active bystanders. As one, you have to quickly assess the situation and identify the next steps.

First Responder Steps

  • Notice the situation: Be aware of your surroundings. Know where the exits are.
  • Interpret the problem: Do I recognize that someone needs help? Is someone hurt?
  • Feel responsible to act: See yourself as being part of the solution to help. Take initiative. Call 9-1-1. Direct individuals as to what to do next.
  • Know what to do: Educate yourself on what to do. Check out the specific tips below.
  • Intervene safely: Take action, but, be sure to keep yourself safe.

There are many different scenarios an active bystander may find themselves a part of. Here are a few emergency situations and what you can do.

Active Shooter

With all the shootings that have happened in the past year, it’s important to be prepared if you are ever faced with this kind of situation. If you encounter a robbery or any other kind of active shooter situation, the first thing to do is remain calm. Never take your eyes off the shooter – you want to know where they are at all times. After that, you have three options – run, hide, or fight.

Running should always be your first line of action. Do what you can to get others to leave with you. Don’t worry about gathering your belongings – they are replaceable, your life isn’t. As soon as you get to safety, call 9-1-1.

If you can’t run because the shooter has blocked the exit, your next option is to hide. Find a secure location that can provide protection from gun shots. Get as many people into a small closet or under a table as you can. Make sure your phone is on silent and the lights are off so you don’t give away your hiding spot. If you can, dial 9-1-1. Even if you can’t speak, leave the line open so a dispatcher can hear what is going on.

If you cannot run and hiding isn’t an option either, the only thing left to do is fight. Look around the room for weapons, but don’t grab them just yet. It is possible for unarmed citizens to talk a shooter down – it has happened many times before, saving dozens of civilian lives. You aren’t the likely target, and the shooter has nothing to gain from hurting you. If this isn’t the case, grab the closest item that can be used as a weapon and prepare yourself to fight.

Domestic Abuse

Often, people don’t want to get involved in these kinds of situations. If you encounter a public domestic abuse situation, immediately dial 9-1-1. If you see a violent couple, make a noise to indicate that you see what is happening. Sometimes this is enough to make the attacker stop, as they may not want the police to be called.


If you are faced with an emergency such as someone choking or a fire, call 9-1-1 or get someone nearby to call while you attend to the victims. If you know how to address a choking victim, now is a good time to put that training to use. If you encounter a fire, help those nearby evacuate the area. If you hear people inside, let the dispatcher know.

Workplace Disaster

If you are a first responder to a workplace disaster, remember your company’s contingency policies. Alert the proper personnel and begin the procedures outlined in your emergency plan. Evacuate the area and make sure all other employees are safe. Turn off all gas lines and electricity to the area if there is a danger of explosion. Arm yourself with a fire extinguisher in case of fire.

Drug Abuse

If you encounter someone who has overdosed, call an ambulance right away. Approach the person carefully – they may become violent. Make sure their airways are clear and they can breathe. If not, begin CPR, if you know how. Try to keep the patient calm if they are conscious.  Monitor their vital signs – pulse, rate of breathing and blood pressure – until medical help arrives. If you see the bottle with pills they may have taken or any remnants of the drug, keep them for the medical team to see.

Emergency situations can be scary, stressful and confusing. Being a prepared first responder can not only save your life, but the lives of others.

Prepared for an Emergency?

SACS Consulting and Investigative Services, Inc. can arm you with knowledge to be a prepared first responder. Call 330-255-1101 today and speak to one of our experienced professionals about our many training programs.