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What Is Primary Assessment In First Aid?

primary assessment

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A primary assessment in first aid is the initial examination or evaluation of a patient by a medical professional or a first responder. The goal is to gain insight into the extent of the injury and provide treatment to stabilize the person.

Complete assessment of the scene and the patient is essential after an injury. Doing so allows the responder to quickly identify life-threatening conditions and ensure the person receives timely medical care.

Here’s how to perform the primary assessment in a first aid emergency.


The most widely used mnemonic for primary assessment is DRSABC, which stands for Danger, Responsiveness, Send for help, Circulation, Airway, Breathing, and Circulation.

The acronym DRSABC is used to remember the primary survey steps easily. It also determines the level of consciousness of the victim and whether the condition is critical or not.

A person in immediate danger will require first aid intervention to stabilize their condition before continuing to the next level of care. It may involve administering CPR, performing wound care, or applying pressure to the bleeding wound to prevent shock.

It is worth remembering this mnemonic because it applies every time an accident or emergency occurs.

First Aid Assessment For Adult

In performing a primary assessment for conscious adults, ensure the area is safe for both the victim and the responder. Take standard precautions such as gloves and other personal protective equipment to minimize exposure to infection.­­

Start by checking the victim’s level of responsiveness and breathing. If the person becomes unconscious and has trouble breathing, active emergency medical services (EMS) by calling triple zero 000. Ask other bystanders in the area to locate a first aid kit and AED (automated external defibrillator).

For conscious, the standard first aid procedure is to ask for consent. If consent is given, quickly assess for breathing, responsiveness, and other life-threatening conditions.

While waiting for EMS to arrive, consider performing a secondary assessment or providing first aid to obvious injuries.

What Are The Steps To Follow When Doing A Primary Assessment?

Scene Assessment

The golden rule in any emergency scenario is to check if the area is safe for everyone before approaching the victim. When this is not possible, the person may need to be transferred to a safer location.

Certain hazards to look out for include road traffic accidents, electricity, deep water, poisonous gases, etc.

Assessment Of The Sick Or Injured Person

Assess the nature of injury or illness and set priorities in providing treatment.

If the person loses consciousness, check for a response first by doing to shout-tap first-aid technique. No response may require the performance of CPR.

If the person is responsive, try to obtain important information by asking questions.

Quickly assess the person from head to using the acronym DOTS – deformities, open injuries, tenderness, and swelling. Provide appropriate first aid treatment for identified injuries.

Rest & Reassure

While waiting for the EMS to arrive, the responder should have the patient rest comfortable and provide reassurance that medical help is on the way.

Keeping the patient calm and comfortable help prevent deterioration or possible complications, such as shock.

Monitor closely and continue to reassess scene safety, breathing, responsiveness, and the effectiveness of first aid treatment until someone with more advanced training takes over or medical services arrive.

Remember to relay any information to the key person gathered throughout the assessments.

Get First Aid Training

First Aid Training help prepare you to attend for all emergency scenarios.

Enrol in a first aid class near you and learn the practical skills to help save a life.

Check out our blog for more information about performing a primary and secondary assessment for adults.

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