As summer draws to a close and Dubai’s sun-loving folk start returning to the beach, it’s a good time to consider how you would – or could – react in an emergency situation. In 2011, there were 13 drownings at Dubai’s beaches and a further four people injured while swimming. This figure doesn’t take into account drowning incidents at private pool parties: Tracy Fountain, founder of local first aid training group Back to Basics, explains this a growing problem in the city. Back to Basics runs a variety of certified first aid courses, educating home-help employees, corporations and individuals on life-saving techniques that can be used in a variety of situations.
To get an idea of what’s involved, I meet Tracy and her colleague Remus Latonero for an introduction to the programme. I’ve signed up for a basic lesson in how to deal with drowning and choking scenarios using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED), and first I’m shown a video on the practicalities and benefits of undertaking a certified first aid course. Remus then explains how to respond in an emergency, and describes how the techniques used can help preserve life until the emergency services arrive. I’m told that in the UAE, the average response time is now down to between eight and ten minutes: it’s an impressive figure, but ambulance teams still face the problem of vague locations and unclear directions, which could have potentially fatal consequences.
We run through a series of acronyms designed to help first aiders memorise the sequence in which steps should be carried out, before Remus leads me over to try my hand at performing CPR on a dummy. It’s not as simple as I’d expected: performing chest compressions at 100bpm takes concentration. Remus’s amusing yet potentially life-saving tip is to remember the beat to The Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive’, which he says is exactly the right tempo. He also suggests ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ by Queen, but recommends I stick to the former (he likes the song better), although I’m not sure how I’d find the composure to hum along while presented with an unconscious human for the first time.
Practice is key here, which is why the full course is much longer than my two-hour taster session, and comes with plenty of literature and opportunities for repeated practice in different scenarios. All of these help to boost confidence in terms of shouting for help and being able to take control of the situation until the pros arrive.
Despite popular urban myths surrounding CPR and the threat of legal action, if you’re qualified to carry out CPR, the authorities will encourage you to do so. Lt Colonel Ahmed Al Marri, criminal investigation chief at Dubai Police, recently told the local press: ‘We encourage only those who are qualified to carry out CPR to help until the ambulance arrives. No action will be taken against them, even if the victim dies, because they are certified.’ Back to Basics explains that though the administration of first aid is not specifically provided for under UAE law, Article 64 of the Federal Penal Code may cover circumstances in which first aid treatment is applied. It notes that the UAE judicial system is not designed to prosecute members of the public who demonstrate good intent in helping others.
The message is that you should only attempt to deliver CPR if you’re trained and certified. Luckily, first aid courses are flexible and can easily be adapted to any scenario, so there’s nothing stopping you from learning these skills. Accidents are never planned, but learning first aid will at least make sure you’re prepared.
Back to Basics runs first aid courses certified the UK and US, as well as community courses for parents and care givers. From Dhs450 for a full day of training and certificate. www.backtobasicsuae.com (04 371 3356).
First response in an emergency
1. Call the emergency services. In Dubai, the number is 999. This puts you straight through to the police, who will direct your call to the ambulance service.
2. Make sure you give your location in as much detail as possible, including landmarks and anything else that might help the emergency team find you quickly.
3. Let them know the condition of the casualty in as much detail as possible.
4. Be clear about the number of casualties.
5. Don’t hang up. Keep the line open in case the situation changes, or the ambulance staff need to contact you.