“Every planner will be faced with first aid needs at one time or another,” said safety consultant Michael Giordano during an information-packed presentation at Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Northeast Chapter winter meeting. “The most important thing to know is: Make sure your assistance to the sick or injured does no further damage. Pick up the phone and call for help. You don't want to jump-start someone's heart with a car battery.”

Giordano, a senior instructor for Newton, N.H.-based ADH Health & Safety Training Center, advised the audience how to assess the scene. “There are three groups of people,” he said. “The injured, the rescuers, and the bystanders. You are first responsible to the rescuers. Second, you need to make sure the third-party bystanders are safe. Then and only then do you turn your attention to the injured party.”

An initial step in first-aid preparedness, said Giordano, who formerly worked for John Hancock's security department, is to find out what the minimum emergency response is at your workplace and at your meeting venue. Beyond that, here are some of his hands-on tips:

  • If the injured person has any loss of consciousness, even if only for a few seconds, call 911. Be specific in terms of the location: not just the name of the hotel but the area within the hotel, for example. Then be specific about the kind of help you need. And be sure to give a call-back number.

  • If you are going to use any type of first-aid procedure, assume everyone has a bloodborne pathogen (such as HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C) and take precautions. This includes protecting your skin with gloves, washing with soap and water, and removing contaminated clothing.

  • If you need to stop bleeding, apply direct pressure with something clean (such as a towel) to cause clotting. If possible, elevate the injury higher than the heart so that the blood flows more slowly. Don't try to apply a tourniquet, which cuts off circulation and should only be attempted by a professional.

  • When dealing with burns, first and foremost get rid of whatever is causing the burn. Next, cool the burn: Plain tap water is better than ice. Cover first- or second-degree burns with sterile gauze (a first-degree burn is red; a second-degree burn is red with some blistering). Never use topical ointments or butter on a burn.

  • If someone is in respiratory distress and having trouble breathing, they will not want to lie down, so sit them down.

  • It is likely that at some point one of your attendees will have an allergic reaction — most commonly, to bee stings, dairy products, shellfish, or nuts. Symptoms can include itching and hives, noisy breathing, tightness in the chest and/or throat, confusion, and dizziness. Call 911, assist with any prescribed medication if available, and monitor breathing and circulation.