Suddenly in Commmand: First Aid
This article was published in Spring 2015 Nor’Easter for TONE (Tartan Owners Northeast). Inc.
for previous article go here:
Suddenly in Command: First Aid
by Robin G. Coles
In my last article I mentioned Luke had a heart attack. Dani got stuck at the helm; “Suddenly in
Command”. Fortunately for her, Luke was able to give her directions while he was lying down in the
cockpit. But, what if some other medical emergency happened?
Emergencies come in different shapes and sizes. Some are man-made. Others are acts of nature. If
they happen at sea, they will need quick action taken. In addition to getting hit by the boom, falling
overboard, slipping on the deck, and carbon monoxide poisoning can become a major trauma; unless someone on board knows exactly what to do.
Education and planning can help you feel more confident. The best way to get this confidence is to
take the American Red Cross or US Sailing courses; CPR, First Aid and AED (Automated External
Before you leave the dock, here are a few things you can do to prepare yourself for an emergency.
1. Check your VHF Radio to make sure it’s working. It should have a red DSC (Digital Selective
Calling) button on it. And its MMSI number is registered. (Maritime Mobile Service Identity
Number) If not, you can register it here:
http://www.usps.org/php/mmsi/home.php (United States Power Squadron)
2. Check your first aid kit and make sure you have supplies in it such as: band-aids, ace bandages,
aspirin, hot and cold packs, alcohol, antacids. An up-to-date first aid book also.
3. Have your passengers fill out a form with their medical history on it. This will tell you who their
physicians are. Any medications they’re taking. Types of allergies they have. And who is their
emergency contact. Then take everyone’s forms and put them all together in one spot where everyone
on board can find them. A good place might be the chart table.
You might also ask everyone to enter a name in their cell phone under “ICOE” (in case of emergency).
This will come in handy when you pass this information onto either the USCG or whoever rescues you.
At sea if you encounter a medical emergency you’ll need to: Assess the Scene and Alert others on board.
You’ll also need to quickly check your surroundings to see if you can get back to shore. Complete a
secondary survey for injuries. Ask about symptoms and observe signs for something wrong or out of the
ordinary. As soon as you can, start a log of what happened, symptoms and treatments you provided.
This should go with the person once help arrives.
The Good Samaritan law protects you if you don’t go beyond the scope of your training. To prevent a
lawsuit, make sure you only advise and act upon what you’ve learned. If a person is unconscious and
not breathing, you’ll have to assume permission is implied. Make sure you explain everything you’re
doing each step of the way and ask for confirmation. You’ll also want to state that you’re going to call the next level of care.
Robin is a published author, passionate marine enthusiast and sailor who has interviewed countless
industry experts as well as visited, interviewed personnel at, written about, and photographed
hundreds of marine ports in the US and abroad.
Robin also works with businesses to help them tell their stories. Articles, customer success stories, and
videos are just a few ways she helps her clients. Her current projects include videos about Boat Safety. If you’d like to get involved in these, let Robin know.