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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Get ready to help. Become an active bystander.

When an emergency happens, whether it is a major disaster or smaller local incident, bystanders are the first people on the scene and their actions can help protect and save lives – often times, these are the lives of their friends, families or community members. 

How can you get ready to provide urgently needed care in a disaster? What can you do to be a bystander who doesn’t stand by?

  • Learn First Aid and CPR:  Sometimes, injured people can’t wait for the EMTs to arrive on the scene.  But learning CPR and First Aid is fast and relatively easy.  Many classes only take a few hours and it is easy to find a class.  To get started, check out Red Cross’s Take a Class and find out how you can learn lifesaving skills.
  • You Are the Help Until Help Arrives: Simple actions can save lives! The most effective actions require no special training. You can help somoeone with life-threatening injuries.  Learn how with the quick and easy Until Help Arrives online training.
  • Learn to Apply a Tourniquet:  A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes, so it is important to quickly stop the blood loss.  Knowing how to correctly apply a tourniquet could save someone's life.  It just takes a few minutes to learn how to do it.  Check out Stop the Bleed and learn this lifesaving skill.
  • Put First Aid Apps on Your Phone:  Whether or not you’ve taken a first aid class, having a first aid app on your phone can help give you the information you need to act quickly in an emergency.  Check out Red Cross’s free First Aid app for Android and iPhone/iPad.
  • Be Willing to Help:  You don’t always need to have formal training to save someone’s life or provide them with the care that they desperately need at that moment. Sometimes, you just need to be willing to help carry someone who is hurt to safety, provide comfort to someone who is frightened, or help someone find the medical care they need.
  • Start a Conversation and Spread the Word:  Talk to the people around you – your friends, your family, you co-workers and members of your community – about preparedness.  Learning to take the steps outlined above – but getting a friend to join you when you take that First Aid class or take any of the other actions outline above is even better.
Simply put: bystanders who don’t stand by – the ones that jump in to help others in need – save lives. Take some time during National Preparedness Month to plan on ways that you, your friends, your family and your community can be better prepared to help out during the next disaster.

  • This page last reviewed: May 26, 2017