Saving a life can be a simple as doing the right thing within the first few moments of an accident, something as simple as making sure the victim can come to no further harm.
Not many people realise that it is their duty under French law to help anyone who has had an accident as long as it does not put themselves in danger. Article 223-6 of the Penal Code is known as the Good Samaritan Law and says that refusing to help is a crime punishible by five years in jail and a €75,000 fine.
It was brought into focus after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales when it was discovered paparazzis took pictures rather than help her and the others in her car.
More than 200,000 people die each year in simple accidents in everyday locations – in the house, at work or in the street – and many deaths can be avoided. The French Croix Rouge says quick intervention can be the difference between life and death.
World First Aid Day is on September 11 and all summer the Croix Rouge has been running its Caravane d’Été offering snap courses throughout France to teach people basic life-savers.
It and others also teach courses in Prévention et Secours Civiques de Niveau 1 (PSC1), the legally approved basic first-aid course that is taught across the country; it takes about 10 hours and costs between €40-€90.
Basic life-saving techniques can be taught from the age of 10 and the Croix Rouge tells of an 11-year-old boy who saved his sister from choking by making her cough up the coins she had swallowed.
He had been taught the Heimlich manoeuvre and stood behind his sister, put his arms under hers with his fist in her solar plexus and jerked upwards: it worked and the girl coughed out the coin.
There are six basic actions that people should know about and, perhaps surprisingly to people with no first-aid knowledge, the first rule is not to dive straight into helping the person, but to make sure they can come to no further harm from traffic, fire or a trailing electric cable.
Then find out if they are conscious and breathing normally. If they are, the next step is to call for help.
The six basic techniques that that the Croix Rouge calls the six gestes de base give tips on how to stop choking, as above, how to stop bleeding, what to do if a person is unconscious and what to do if someone is having a heart attack.
Find out where your nearest PSC1 class is at www.croix-rouge.fr