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First Aid

Primary Survey Using DRABC Steps – First Aid

Tuba Tasneem

March 07, 2023

Read time : 05 mins

Table of contents

Primary Survey Its Usage DRABC Steps

Everyone should feel confident in their ability to respond appropriately in a medical emergency and administer first aid. You never know when you’ll need to use these abilities to help someone in a possibly fatal circumstance.

In this post, we’ll go through how to do a preliminary evaluation on a sick or injured person. The abbreviation “DRABC” makes it easy to recall each of the five processes in what is referred to as the primary survey. We also describe what you ought to do after finishing these procedures.

Primary Survey in First Aid

Any first aid assessment starts with the primary survey. You can determine if you can approach and begin to care for the casualty without endangering yourself or anybody else by performing a preliminary evaluation of the situation and the victim’s needs.

It’s designed to make it easier for you to determine whether the casualty’s life is in urgent danger. You can use the primary survey to identify if someone has any injuries or illnesses that could be life-threatening and require emergency attention.

The subsequent action you take could very likely save their life, so it’s critical that you know how to complete the procedures in the proper sequence. This enables you to prioritise significant health issues by starting with those that will result in death the quickest.

Usage of Primary Survey

Whenever you come across a casualty—someone who has been hurt or ill—you should use the primary survey. This could be the result of a clearly defined accident or occurrence, like a fall, or it could have an originally hidden cause, such as a person’s chronic medical condition, like diabetes.

Anyone can use the primary survey to evaluate a casualty. However, if a trained first aider is nearby, they will probably complete this first evaluation and then provide the victim with any necessary care. Certified first aiders must have completed at least 18 contact hours of practical training.

Designated individuals oversee first aid provisions at work. Some companies may have a designated person present if a trained first aider is unable to show up. Suppose a first aider is absent due to unforeseen circumstances. In that case, the designated person may also be able to offer emergency cover, including doing the primary survey, depending on the person’s role and competency.

If you feel qualified, you may perform the initial survey yourself if someone needs first aid assistance away from the office, such as in your home. You must know how to conduct the initial assessment and deal with any life-threatening concerns before receiving emergency medical assistance because this action could save the casualty’s life.

DRABC Steps For Primary Survey

The abbreviation “DRABC” can be used to remember the five steps you must do to complete the primary survey. To guarantee that the most life-threatening conditions are evaluated and treated first, these must be followed in the order they are listed.

These are the five steps:

  1. Danger
  2. Response
  3. Airway
  4. Breathing
  5. Circulation

DRABC steps first aid


Step 1: Danger

Assessing the situation for potential hazards is the first step in the primary survey. This calls on you to scan the surroundings for anything that might threaten you, the victim, or anybody else. To guarantee that it is safe for you to approach the victim, it is imperative that this is the first action you take.

Before approaching the casualty, you must attempt to make the surroundings safe if you spot any of these or other potential hazards. For instance, turn off the electricity at the source if there is a live electrical current. If this isn’t possible, you might be able to cut off the victim’s current by moving them with a material that doesn’t transmit electricity, such as wood or plastic. You must not make direct contact with the victim.

You can safely approach the casualty once the area has been deemed secure or if there are no threats. You should not approach the casualty; instead, seek emergency medical help if you cannot make the location safe.

Step 2: Response

Check if the casualty is responsive after ensuring it is safe to approach them. Asking them orally whether they are alright, asking them to look at you, or asking them to raise their hand will accomplish this.

Before continuing, take care of any wounds or illnesses the casualty may have if they react to you by speaking to you or moving in another way.

Try tapping the victim on the arm or giving them a light shoulder shake if they don’t reply. You must be careful not to shake them violently as this could aggravate any possible neck or back ailments.

If the casualty still doesn’t respond, you should continue with the primary survey’s next phase and, if you haven’t done so previously, phone the emergency services for assistance.

Step 3: Airway

Verifying that the casualty’s airway is open and unobstructed is the third phase of the primary survey.

If the victim is unconscious, you should:

  1. Gently tilt their head back while elevating their chin, place your hand on their forehead. Look for any obstructions in their airway visually.
  2. Remove any apparent obstacles with care. If you are unable to see anything, don’t put your fingers in their mouth since you can push a blockage deeper if you do.
  3. Start the primary survey’s next phase right away.

If the victim is responsive, you should:

  1. Look for anything that might be obstructing their airway and causing them to choke.
  2. If they have an obstruction, you should encourage them to clear it on their own by coughing or using their hands.
  3. You must assist them in removing the obstruction if they are badly choking and unable to free themselves. You cannot achieve this by sticking your fingers in their mouth. Instead, you should give choking adults and kids a mixture of back slaps and abdominal thrusts and choking infants under a year old a combination of back strikes and chest thrusts.
  4. Once the obstruction has been removed, continue with the primary survey’s next phase.

Step 4: Breathing

The victim’s respiration must be checked to see if it is normal. By tilting their head back, watching for chest movement, and listening for breathing noises, you can check someone’s respiration. For ten seconds, check for air coming from their lips or nose. To ensure that the breathing is rhythmic and regular, checking for breathing for 10 seconds is crucial.

Continue to the last stage of the primary survey if the casualty is breathing normally.

You must confirm that the emergency services have been contacted if the patient is unresponsive and not breathing regularly. Start performing CPR with rescue breaths if you have received practical first aid training and are confident in your abilities. If you haven’t had hands-on instruction, perform CPR simply with your hands and omit rescue breathing. Ask someone else to locate and bring an automated external defibrillator (AED) if one is available.

Step 5: Circulation

If the casualty begins to breathe on their own, you should proceed to the primary survey’s last stage. You must inspect the casualty for any significant bleeding in this phase.

You must manage and lessen the bleeding if the victim is severely bleeding. If feasible, push directly on the wound with a clean cloth or a sterile dressing. If the emergency services haven’t already been contacted, you should ensure they have.

Try to reassure them that help is on the way if they are not bleeding profusely and you have completed the earlier phases of the primary assessment. Stay at their side until emergency help arrives.

You should place the casualty in the recovery position if they are not bleeding but are still unresponsive and breathing regularly. If they vomit, keep them from choking. If they haven’t, you should phone the emergency services.