Save a Life

How You Can Save a Life

by Craven and Valley Life

St John Ambulance, the nation’s leading first aid charity, has teamed up with Craven and Valley Life to bring you some simple, but life-saving, first aid tips…

Save a Life

An important part of administering first aid is safety for the first aider and the casualty. At the scene of an accident or injury, the first aider should do a basic primary survey as follows:

  • Are you or the casualty in any danger? If you have not already done so, make the situation safe and then assess the casualty.
  • If the casualty appears unconscious check this by shouting: “Can you hear me?” “Open your eyes” and gently shaking their shoulders. If there is a response and there is no further danger, leave the casualty in the position found and call for help if needed. Treat any condition found and monitor vital signs – level of response, pulse and breathing. Continue to monitor the casualty either until help arrives or they recover.
  • If there is no response, shout for help straight away. If possible, leave the casualty in the position found and open the airway. If this is not possible, turn the casualty onto their back and open their airway.
  • Open the airway by placing one hand on the casualty’s forehead and gently tilting the head back, then lift the chin using two fingers only. This will move the casualty’s tongue away from the back of the mouth.
  • Look, listen and feel for no more than 10 seconds to see if the casualty is breathing normally. If the casualty is breathing normally, place them in the recovery position. If the casualty is not breathing normally or if you are in any doubt whether breathing is normal, begin CPR. Tilt the head back and lift the chin to open his airway. If he is breathing normally, place him in the recovery position. While waiting for emergency help, keeping the airway of an unconscious casualty open is vital.

Follow these steps to place an adult, or a child over the age of one, in the recovery position:

  • Kneel beside the casualty. Remove spectacles and any bulky items from his pockets
  • Make sure that both of the casualty’s legs are straight. Place the arm that is nearest to you at right angles to his body with the elbow bent and the palm facing upward
  • Bring the arm that is furthest from you across the casualty’s chest and hold the back of his hand against the cheek nearest to you. With your other hand, grasp the far leg just above the knee and pull it up, keeping the foot flat on the ground
  • Keep the casualty’s hand pressed against his cheek and pull on the far leg to roll the casualty towards you and on to his side
  • Adjust the upper leg so that both the hip and the knee are bent at right angles
  • Tilt the casualty’s head back and tilt the chin so that the airway remains open
  • If necessary, adjust the hand under his cheek to keep the airway open
  • If it has not already been done, call 999/112 for emergency help and monitor vital signs while waiting for help to arrive
  • If a casualty is to be left in the recovery position for more than 30 minutes, roll him on to his back and then roll him on to the opposite side – unless other injuries prevent you from doing this

If the casualty is a baby under the age of one, cradle the infant in your arms with his head tilted downwards. This position prevents him from choking on his tongue or from inhaling vomit. Monitor his vital signs until emergency help arrives.

For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website ( offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 08700 10 49 50.