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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Be a Bystander Who Doesn’t Stand By

The bombing of the Boston Marathon was a tragedy by any measure. But even as bombs continued to go off, there were brave individuals who ran towards the danger, not away from it, to help those in need. These people showed the vital role the community plays during any disaster and their bravery should inspire everyone to recognize the critical role that the community plays in planning for, responding to, and recovering from a tragedy.  

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.
  • 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.   Got ideas?  Share them as a comment on this blog post.

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  • This page last reviewed: January 12, 2018