To help or not to: Most bystanders are confused on what can or cannot do to help in case of accidents Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Dubai: It’s a Saturday evening and a group of western expats at the Emirates Living come together for a game of football. A little after half time, one of them, just 27, suddenly collapses. The team desperately wants to help but cannot do much. Questions fly on whether any one of them knows CPR, even as there are doubts on whether it can be administered. Someone calls for the ambulance which arrives in a flash but the man, who has suffered a massive heart attack, is already dead.

Elsewhere in Bur Dubai, an Indian couple is walking down Bank Street when they notice an old woman tripping on the pavement and falling squarely on the ground. Their instincts dictate that they should reach out to her, but they are not so sure if they can help. The woman, writhing in pain, gestures to other bystanders and asks them to call her son who later takes her to the doctor.

Instances such as these raise several questions in the UAE: Can a bystander assist in times of an accident? Can anyone drive a victim to hospital? Can anyone trained in CPR administer it on a patient in need? Does the UAE have a Good Samaritan Law that protects a bystander if he were to help out?

Dr Omar Al Sakaf, Medical and Technical Affairs at Dubai Centre for Ambulance Services, told XPRESS: “The law is under consideration. Bystanders should know in what ways they can help. The first thing to do is call 999. Our average response time is less than eight minutes. Those who are trained in CPR and are certified by the Dubai Centre for Ambulance Services (DCAS) can administer the technique on any patient. Medical staff at the control room can also give out instructions to the 999 caller on how to assist the patient till the ambulance arrives.”

However, most bystanders remain confused on what can or cannot be done.

Safe Hands, a Dubai-based services company, has launched a campaign along with Fund Advisors to create awareness about the importance of first aid and the need for Good Samaritan laws in the country to reduce public hesitation in helping out during crises.

Rebecca Smith, Head of First Aid at Safe Hands, said: “The UAE does not have any law to protect people who perform first aid on those who they do not know. But Good Samaritan laws in Europe, US, Canada, Australia and China encourage people who have the skills to intervene in emergency situations by incorporating a ‘duty to rescue’ clause. The protection is intended to reduce bystanders’ hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death.”

She said while people are clear about the cover provided to perform first aid in a work or corporate environment or on family members and friends, many people hesitate when it comes to helping strangers.

“As a paediatric nurse, I find it extremely difficult … We hope that through the registrations acquired through the campaign, we can potentially make a difference to the legislation surrounding first aid in Dubai,” she noted.

Even where first aid is permitted, she said mechanisms can be lacking. “UAE labour law states that there should be one first aid box for every 100 workers in any corporate environment and that should be controlled by a first aid appointed member of staff. But our findings so far show that the enforcement of this regulation has not been effective.”

Commenting on first aid in schools, Smith said: “The only regulation that exists is that the educational establishment has a minimum number of healthcare professionals on site. In Dubai, that means one full-time nurse and one part-time doctor for schools with up to 1,000 children, one full-time nurse and two full-time doctors for schools with up to 2,000 children, and two full-time nurses for every 1,000 children for schools with more than 2,000 pupils. But is there anyone qualified to perform CPR or first aid on trips outside of the school? Our findings were that the majority of the time this was not taken into consideration.”

She said Safe Hands also found that all healthcare staff tend to be stationed together in a particular area of the school. “If a child was to suffer a respiratory or cardiac arrest at the opposite end, would there be enough time for the message to reach the nurse and for the nurse to then get to the child? In some of the larger schools, this could take five or more minutes.”

According to her, studies have shown that survival falls by 10-15 per cent for each minute of cardiac arrest without CPR delivery. CPR delivered after four or more minutes of the arrest happening is very rarely effective. “Bystander CPR initiated immediately after arrest has been shown to double and in some cases, triple an individual’s chance of survival.”

“We also enquired about the possibility of an emergency situation occurring during the transportation process to and from the school, were the drivers trained in first aid? Again, our findings were that the majority of school bus drivers were not.”

As for hotels, she said Dubai had made it mandatory for all hotels to install an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) and have at least one staff member trained to use the machine at all times. An AED is a portable electronic device that automatically diagnoses potentially life threatening cardiac problems in a patient and is able to treat him through defibrillation.

Dr Sakaf said DCAS regularly holds training courses for hundreds of hotel and other staff in CPR and first aid every year.

Smith said Safe Hands and Fund Advisers have launched two initiatives - KIDS Child Safety and Safe and Sound – in schools and corporates. “The first campaign is aimed at schools, nurseries, after-school clubs, sports clubs etc where staff are offered free certified first aid training. In exchange, we asks to extend an offer of a free, two-hour first aid workshop to parents of the children. The idea is educate the parents in paediatric first aid so that they know how to deal with emergency situations at home.”

Similarly, Safe and Sound, launched in workplaces, provides certified training to allocated staff members in return for hosting a free, tw0-hour workshop for other employees.


“Effective bystander CPR provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but only 32 per cent of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from a bystander.”

- American Heart Association, 2013

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