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Husband, father, grandfather, friend...a few of the roles acquired in 62 years of living.  I keep an upbeat attitude, loving humor and the singular freedom of a perfect laugh.  I don't let curmudgeons ruin my day; that only gives them power over me.  Having experienced death once, I no longer fear it, although I am still frightened by the process of dying.  I love to write because it allows me the freedom to vent those complex feelings that bounce restlessly off the walls of my mind; and express the beauty that can only be found within the human heart.

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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Biker Down! What Do You Do?*

The end of a perfect ride.

*Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
July 15, 2010
as "Biker Down!  What Do You Do?"

*Johnstown Tribune-Democrat
July 18, 2010
as "Bike Down; Tips to Assist at Scene"

Copyright © 2010 by Ralph Couey
Written material only

It was a beautiful day; bright sunshine and comfortable temperatures. A line of motorcycles stretched out in front of you, thundering along roads dappled in sunlight and leaves. Suddenly, it happened. An oncoming vehicle strays across the centerline. You see a bike swerve to avoid the collision and go down. A shower of sparks flies from the sliding machine as it shreds itself all over the road. Everyone pulls over. People jump off bikes and rush toward their fallen friend. Men are shouting, women screaming; the scene has devolved into chaos. And from over the hill, you hear the unmistakable roar of a coal truck headed your way.

Summertime is the best time for group motorcycle rides. Most times, the rides are smooth and uneventful. But occasionally, it all goes sideways. In those situations, you have to act. But knowing what to do, or just as important, what NOT to do can keep a tragedy from becoming a disaster, and an injured friend from dying.

There are a host of possible injuries a rider could suffer in an accident, head and spinal trauma being the most serious. Broken bones, dislocations, lacerations and abrasions (that dreaded road rash), internal and external bleeding, and even partially or completely severed limbs are some of the injuries that could present themselves.

You can prepare yourself for this eventuality by taking an advanced first aid course and carrying an advanced first aid kit when riding. Urge all riders to wear protective gear, gloves, chaps, armored jackets, and yes, helmets. But medical and accident scene experts say there are specific things we can do to help an injured rider during the first few moments of trauma’s “Golden Hour.”

1. Secure the scene. Send someone at least 150 feet to either side of the accident to stop traffic. If you’re on a hill or a curve, go to the top of the hill or around the curve.
Assign specific people to the following tasks, and get everyone else off the road and out of the way.

2. Call 911. If this happens in one of those rare places lacking 911 coverage, call the operator, making sure it’s a local one. DO NOT YELL. Talk slowly, calmly, and clearly. Don’t hang up until the dispatcher tells you to. Give the following information:

• Your name and phone number first, in case you get cut off.
• The type of accident (car vs. motorcycle, car vs. car, etc.) and the number of vehicles involved.
• Location, as accurately as possible. Include the road name or number, which lane, the mile marker, or distance and direction from the nearest town, or landmark.
• Number of injured, and if anyone’s trapped.

3. Don’t turn off ignition keys. This may surprise you but according to Johnstown, PA Police Officer Erin P. Kabler, Lead Crash Investigator, “As an investigator, I would prefer that the ignition not be touched unless absolutely necessary (in case of fire). We can get a lot of information from the motorcycle prior to the ignition being turned off.”

4. Don’t disturb the evidence. An accident almost always involves a violation of the law, so treat it as a crime scene. Even setting a fallen bike upright can contaminate the evidence and make it harder for investigators to determine the cause of the accident and assign responsibility. Someone who has their wits about them should start to write down what happened, including gathering names and addresses of witnesses. If moving one of the vehicles is medically necessary, first commit to memory its exact location and position.

5. Don’t move the injured unless they’re in immediate danger, such as:

• Face down and not breathing.
• Lying under hot metal, or if the vehicle is on fire.
• Lying in a pool of gasoline.

If it is necessary to move the injured, use three to four people. MAINTAIN SPINAL IMMOBILITY by log rolling or a blanket drag. Only move them the minimum distance absolutely needed. Drag. Don’t carry. Take them upslope away from leaking gas, or upwind from fire. Don’t remove helmet or clothing. If the person is having trouble breathing, loosen their collar. Gently support and immobilize the head and neck, as well as any obvious fractures. If the injured party is fully or partially conscious, talk to them by name. Keep them awake and aware of their surroundings.

6. Remember the ABC’s of first aid: Airway, Breathing, and Circulation. Use approved methods of artificial respiration to keep them breathing. Control bleeding by direct pressure to the wound. Do not use a tourniquet unless a limb is completely severed. If they’re conscious, ask them about any medications they’re taking and write them down. Above all, remember that you’re neither a doctor or a paramedic. You do only the minimum necessary to sustain life until help arrives.

7. Once First Responders are on-scene, back off.  Direct law enforcement to the person who was writing the accident down. Only one person should talk. Multiple and simultaneous conversations only waste time. If you know the person’s next of kin, give that info to the police. Let them make the call. The last thing a spouse or parent needs to hear is a call from “Grossed-Out Greg” or “Terrified Tina.”

Above all, remain calm. Panic accomplishes nothing except further injury.

When a friend or loved one is hurt, we all want to help. But we must be smart about what we do, or risk doing serious harm.
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