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What Does DRSABCD Stand For?

In life, a first aid scenario can happen at any time. You could get caught up in an extreme weather event, witness a car accident or drowning, or see someone suffer a heart attack, asthma attack or allergic reaction.

However, when a serious incident occurs, it’s very common to panic or experience a mental blank. The best way to stay on top of the situation and be sure you’ve done all you can is to follow the DRSABCD action plan – and the easiest way to remember it is to pronounce it as “Doctors ABCD.”

Endorsed by the Australian Resuscitation Council (ARC), it’s a popular method because this simple set of 7 letters contains a lot of important information for how to best care for someone in need.

In short, DRSABCD stands for Danger, Response, Send for help, Airway, Breathing, CPR and Defibrillation. But what does the DRSABCD acronym actually mean and how do you perform each step properly?

Keep reading for all the key details…

‘D’ means Danger

Life threatening conditions can be brought on by a range of reasons, one of which being a danger.

The first step of DRSABCD is to ensure the area is safe, because there could have been or still could be a physical danger or obstacle around. Everything from live wires and toxic gases, to falling objects and viscous animals can cause an emergency situation, so ensuring you and your patient are clear from any dangers is crucial.

If the coast is clear, proceed to the next step. If there are still potential hazards about, proceed with caution or wait until professional help arrives…

‘R’ means Response

The next stage of your first aid response is to check for a response.

Is the person acknowledging your voice and commands, and are they able to respond vocally and/or physically? A helpful acronym to use here is COWS which stands for “Can you hear me?”, “Open your eyes”, “What is your name?” and “Squeeze my hand.”

Another tip is to gently squeeze their shoulders to get a response. If they make any movements, sounds or open their eyes, you are clear to make them comfortable and attend to their injuries.

If the person is unconsciousness and unresponsive, you need to move on to the next step of DRSABCD…

‘S’ means Send for Help

Sending for help is one of the most important things to do when you encounter an emergency.

This step can either be done by you or by anyone else in the vicinity who has a working phone. If they don’t, send them off to find help nearby as quickly as they can.

The number you need to dial is 000 so an ambulance can be sent out to your location to take over the first aid duties. If you’re making the call, have the phone beside you on speaker so that you can follow any instructionss the operator gives you whilst you wait.

They will most likely ask you to put the person into the recovery position and check their airways – which is the next part of DRSABCD…

‘A’ means Airway

If your patient doesn’t have a clear, open airway, they will be struggling to breathe and their condition will only worsen – and rapidly.

If their head is slumped forward, lift up their chin and move their jaw forward to help them breathe more easily. Open their mouth and check for any foreign materials such as bits of food or fluids. If their airway is clear, lie them on their back and gently tilt their head back.

If there is an obstruction, roll the person onto their side and see if the blockage can dislodge or drain itself. If you nothing comes loose and you’re able to, scoop inside their mouth with a finger sweep (use gloves if you have them handy). Now you’ve cleared out as much as you can, check their breathing…

‘B’ means Breathing

Your patient may be breathing, but are they breathing normally?

Place your hand on their abdomen, an ear to their mouth and feel for the rise and fall of their chest. 2–3 breaths every 10 seconds is about right. Gasping or anything very fast or slow is not right.

If they are breathing, keep them in the recovery position and keep monitoring their breathing until help arrives. If they are not breathing or suddenly stop breathing, it’s time to start CPR…

‘C’ means CPR

This is where you put a CPR course into practice.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation will help inflate a critically ill patient’s lungs with oxygen and pump blood around their body to keep them alive. Remember that blood carries oxygen – so this is crucial.

The Australian standard procedure is 30 chest compressions followed by 2 breaths (read point 3 here for specific instructions). If you’d prefer not to do mouth–to–mouth, compressions alone are also OK. If you start to tire, see if another bystander can help you by taking it in turns and changing operators every 2 minutes. The key is to make sure you transition without stopping compressions.

Keep doing CPR on a loop until an ambulance arrives or until the person starts breathing again on their own. If a defibrillator is on hand, get that going as soon as possible. Time is of the essence when a person is unresponsive…

‘D’ means Defibrillation

An automated external defibrillator (or AED) should be applied as soon as it is available.

Don’t worry if you haven’t used one before. Modern AEDs come with voice prompts which will tell you exactly what to do, from placing the pads on the person’s bare chest to preparing to shock them.

It’s important to know too that not all patients will require a shock. The defibrillator will scan the person’s heart electricity activity and advise you only then if a shock is needed. Whether you administer one or not, CPR should be continued until further assistance arrives.

Industry Wide Training’s First Aid course (with CPR) will teach you how to follow a DRSABCD action plan in the case of an emergency. It will go in to much more detail too, showing you exactly how to put theory into practice. Contact us today to book a session!