Saturday 8 September is World First Aid Day however alarming new research released by the British Red Cross shows that less than half of people in Northern Ireland (45%) would be confident enough to help in a first aid emergency.

Whilst the majority of us would want someone to come to our aid (93%), over 55% of adults here said that they would not feel confident helping and three-quarters of those questioned (75%) said that they would worry about making it worse or doing something wrong. Worse still, only 4 per cent of people in the Northern Ireland knew the correct first aid skills, and said they were both confident and likely to help someone in three of the most life-threatening scenarios.

Ahead of World First Aid Day on Saturday 8 September the British Red Cross is empowering the nation to learn five simple skills that could save a life. These include how to help someone who is: choking, bleeding heavily, unresponsive and breathing, unresponsive and not breathing and having a seizure.

During a life-threatening emergency it is the actions of the first person on the scene that can mean the difference between life and death. Doing something is always better than doing nothing.

One local dad-of-two knows exactly how that feels. On a Christmas night out, Ballymena man Paul Nelson noticed that one of his friends was unable to breathe and was turning blue after a piece of steak got stuck in his throat. Acting quickly Paul used the techniques he’d previously learned on a British Red Cross first aid course to dislodge the food and allow his friend to breathe again.

Paul explained: “I’m part of a golf society and we get together every Christmas for a meal. About 36 of us would play golf, have a few beers and then eat.

“I noticed a friend of mine across the table sort of sitting over his plate and I could see his mouth was starting to drool a bit and you could see the panic in his face. He was coming past me and he was turning pale and his knees were about to give way. At this stage people were aware of what was happening. I managed to dislodge the piece of steak using what I’d learned on the course but he was a bit distressed.

“Your obvious first thought is ‘is the victim okay?’ but for the person applying the first aid, it’s a very sobering experience. Needless to say the adrenalin was kind of pumping as I tried to remember what I had been taught. And afterwards you think what if that didn’t work. Those thoughts do enter your head after it is over.

“If I hadn’t noticed the chances are he would have collapsed. I’m just glad that I had that first aid training and one of the reasons I took the first aid training was because I have two young kids. I would definitely encourage and advise everyone to get first aid training. In an emergency situation you have to trust yourself. It’s just about having the courage to step forward.”

Joe Mulligan Head of First Aid at the British Red Cross said: “We would all want someone to come to our aid if we were injured or ill, but the fact that so few people feel they have the knowledge and confidence to step in and help in the most serious first aid scenarios is concerning.

“The actions of the first person on the scene of a life-threatening emergency are vital. In the same way that everyone knows to call 999, it’s so important that people have the skills to act before the ambulance arrives.

“It’s normal to feel worried about the prospect of an emergency like this, but doing something is always better than doing nothing. Taking five minutes to learn these five simple skills will give you the confidence to act calmly and could save someone’s life.”

For World First Aid Day the British Red Cross is calling on the nation to be ready. Show your kindness, give  five minutes of your time and they’ll give you five simple skills that could save a life.

Free British Red Cross Apps help you learn how to help someone in a first aid emergency and simple first aid skills. Find out more at where you will also find instructional videos. Or find local baby and child first aid courses here

Image: Hero Ballymena Dad Paul Nelson saved his friend from choking thanks to skills he learnt on a first aid training course


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