The off-piste incident
While skiing off piste your friend falls at speed head first into a covered rock. On inspection they have a large laceration and bone protruding out of their forehead. However the casualty is sat up and conscious. Your phone has no charge.
What would you do?
The first things to consider when dealing with any first aid situation, especially one in a hostile outdoor environment, are the potential dangers to yourself and the casualty. In the mountains it is essential that you can recognize any dangers that could potentially harm you or the casualty. Avalanches, wildlife, terrain (e.g rocks, crevasses, cliff edges), low temperatures, are but a few of the dangers you would need to be aware of.
What are the options and priorities? Once you have identified and removed any risks to yourself and/or the casualty you then need to figure out if there is anyone around to help you. If you cannot see anyone, try shouting to potentially draw some attention. If you cannot use your phone and the casualty is able to respond, ask them if they have a phone that you can use. Cold temperatures can drain your phone battery quickly. Therefore, making sure your phone is fully charged and is kept in a warm place is integral to staying safe off piste. If you have a working phone you should contact the emergency services placing them on loud speaker while you treat the casualty.
Now you need to ascertain whether the casualty is breathing. You can assume that the casualty is breathing as they are conscious and able to retrieve their skis, poles, hat and googles. However, as they move you can see large amounts of blood seeping from their forehead. They are breathing so let’s stop the bleeding! Now you need to sit the casualty down and dress the wound. Dressings for the wound can be found in your first aid kit; it is essential that you have avalanche safety gear and a first aid kit with you when you go off piste. If we cannot contact any help we need to remove the casualty out of the exposed location to safety. Is the casualty able to walk? If you do not suspect any neck or spinal injuries then the casualty will have to walk to safety with your support. If there are suspected neck or spinal injuries, your only option will be to leave the casualty there supported. Use clothing or a bag to provide support around the neck. Make sure you check your map for the exact location where the casualty is positioned before leaving them to go and find help. This would be the worst case scenario.
Please do not think this article is a substitute for appropriate mountain and first aid training, it is merely an insight of just one first aid incident I have had to deal with. Before heading into an extreme outdoor environment you need the necessary training, experience, safety equipment and professional personnel. First Aid Events offers a range of first aid training for all types of scenarios. Please explore the rest of the website to find a course that is suitable for you.
Thank you for reading,
First Aid Events