FIRST AID: How to carry out a primary survey

St John Ambulance, the nation's leading first aid charity, has teamed up with The News to bring you some simple, but life saving, first aid tips '“ this week: the primary survey (for adults and children).

Tuesday, 1st August 2017, 12:45 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th September 2017, 11:37 am
St John Ambulance gives advice on how to put someone in the recovery position Picture by Shutterstock

The primary survey is a quick way for you to find out if someone has any injuries or conditions which are life-threatening. If you follow each step methodically, you can identify each life-threatening condition and deal with it in order of priority.

Use the letters DR. ABC to remember the steps: Danger, Response, Airway, Breathing and Circulation.

n Check for danger – is it safe to go up to the person who needs help?

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n Do they respond to you if you ask them a question? If not, they may be

unresponsive. Gently shake their shoulders, or if it’s a child tap their shoulder.

n Check their airway – if they’re responsive, are they chocking? If they’re unresponsive, tilt their head and lift their chin to open the airway.

n Look, listen and feel for normal breathing. If they’re not breathing normally phone 999/112 and start CPR – chest compressions and rescue breaths. Keep going until emergency help arrives and takes over.

n Check their circulation. Are there signs of severe bleeding? Control the bleeding with pressure and call 999. 

n When any life-threatening conditions have been dealt with or ruled out, start to check them using the secondary survey.

For those looking for quick, easily accessible first aid information, the St John Ambulance app is available free on smartphones and the website ( offers demo videos, an interactive game, and lots of free advice. For more information about first aid courses please call 0303 003 0101.