June 27, 2012

New first-aid app brings safety tips to phones


---- — PLATTSBURGH — A new Smartphone app from the American Red Cross puts lifesaving information at your fingertips. 

It is designed to answer questions about common first-aid situations and provide users with step-by-step instructions on how to handle emergency circumstances.


After downloading the free app, I clicked my way through a wide variety of interesting and helpful facts about everything from what to do if your cat eats a poinsettia to what it means when your hair stands on end during a thunderstorm.

You also have the option of consulting an emergency guide, complete with instructions on how to identify a medical emergency and offer help to someone in need of assistance.


I was curious to see exactly how much detailed information the app provided and what it would take to maneuver through menus during a medical crisis.

Instead of seeking out an actual emergency, I consulted the guide with a hypothetical situation to test my skills and the app.

In my imaginary scenario, 11-year-old Tommy took a nasty spill from his bike, suffering what appear to be broken bones and severe gashes.

I activated the emergency guide and was immediately prompted to answer a series of questions aiming to identify Tommy’s injuries while waiting for help to arrive.

The first question I was asked was, “Is the person breathing?”

At this point, you can have the option of tapping “Yes” or “No.”

Below the buttons, the app offers description that seems to state the obvious to help determine whether the accident victim is breathing or not:

“Isolated or infrequent gasping in the absence of other breathing or no breathing.”

Tommy was “breathing,” so I quickly tapped the “Yes” option.

The next emergency screen asks, “Is the person conscious?”

In this instance, I decided the boy was breathing but was in and out of consciousness.

I was unsure exactly how to answer because it was not a strictly yes-or-no situation.

I decided to err on the side of caution, clicking “No.”

“Call 911 when a person is unconscious,” the app directed.

Done. But what should I do next?

The next screen gave me a choice of making an “Emergency Call,” or clicking on “Continue.”

Should you decide to make the call, the app automatically loads 911 into your phone’s dialer; the user must hit the call button to send the call.


At this point, my mind turned to the imaginary Tommy.

Had some poor kid sustained actual injuries, I have a feeling I would have made things a lot worse by fiddling with my phone app before simply calling for emergency assistance from the start.

After tapping the “Continue” option, the app said: “You will now be given instructions on how to provide emergency care to someone who is unconscious.”

Upon clicking “Continue” again, a 28-second video loads, with steps and photos of people assisting a victim.

While the app is easy to use and filled with helpful information, maneuvering through menus and identifying symptoms might be confusing in an actual emergency.


The Red Cross says the app was designed to accommodate the growing number of Smartphone users, taking critical first-aid information normally distributed in pamphlets and making it available at any time.

“Everyone should load this onto their Smartphone as an important first step in learning what to do for medical emergencies and in creating a family preparedness plan,” said Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council Chair Dr. David Markenson in a press release.

In addition to the emergency guide, users can access quick care tips, training exercises and other videos covering everything from allergic reactions to warning signs of sudden illnesses.

The app is beneficial for sharing first-aid information and would be very useful if help is not readily available. But it seems it would be important to call 911 first.

And it seems that clicking through an app while administering assistance in a serious emergency could be more of a hindrance than a help.

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