Communication and Documentation

To be effective, emergency response and first aid care must have effective communication. For bystanders and professional rescuers alike, this communication begins with recognizing the emergency, activating the EMS system, caring for the patient, and transporting the patient to the emergency room.

Rescue Team Communications

The victim of a serious injury or sudden illness cannot get the help needed until someone recognizes the emergency and activates the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system. A bystander does this by dialing 9-1-1 or the local emergency number. Lifeguards and other first responders may activate an emergency action plan (EAP) for their facility.

Calling EMS

First aid responders need to know when to call the EMS system.

Communication with Bystanders

The role of the bystander in an emergency should not be underestimated. While sizing up the scene (see Assessment of the Scene and Patient), you may need to call on bystanders to help you by stopping traffic, controlling the crowd, making the call to EMS, checking victims in multicasualty incidents, obtaining emergency equipment, etc.

If a rescue team has responded, bystanders may not need to help with the emergency. In this case, they should be moved out of the area to provide privacy for the patient and clear access for EMS personnel.

Interpersonal Communication

To be successful when working with an ill or injured patient, you must communicate in a way that achieves a positive, trusting relationship.

Transfer of Care/Communication with EMS Personnel

When more advanced medical personnel arrive on the scene, you must continue to provide care until asked to stop. Once you are relieved, you may need to give a verbal report about the emergency, the patient’s condition, and the care you have provided. This report should consist of the following:

  • Patient‚Äôs name, age, and gender
  • Current condition
  • Chief complaint
  • Mechanism of injury/nature of illness
  • Medical history and physical exam findings
  • Vital signs
  • Emergency care provided with start time

Emergency Documentation

Documenting the emergency, the victim’s condition, and the care you provide is essential for the following reasons:

  • Your record may help more advanced medical personnel to assess the patient and continue care.
  • Because the patient‚Äôs condition can change, your reco/rd can be used to compare the earlier condition of the patient with his or her current or future condition.
  • This record can become a legal document and support your testimony of what you saw, heard, and did during emergency response.
  • Documentation provides useful statistics when analyzing the effectiveness of response protocols and emergency care procedures.

Examples of emergency documents for lifeguards include: