Have you ever been in a situation where someone needed first aid and you weren’t sure where to start? We’ve all been there. When every second counts, having a plan can help you take action quickly and confidently. That’s where the SAM acronym comes in handy!
SAM stands for Scene Assessment, Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure. Memorizing SAM can provide a step-by-step guide on how to assess an injured person’s condition and provide appropriate care until professional help arrives. Knowing what SAM represents can empower you to take control of an emergency situation.
So let’s break down what each letter in SAM means when providing first aid.
The “S” in SAM stands for scene assessment. Before rushing in to help an injured person, take a few seconds to evaluate the scene around you. Making sure the scene is safe protects both you and the victim from further harm.
Look for potential hazards like live electrical wires, gas leaks, traffic, collapsed structures, smoke or fire. If hazards are present, call 911 to contain the dangers before attempting to help.
Continuously reassess the scene as conditions can change rapidly. If new risks arise, move yourself and the victim to safety. Checking your surroundings is a quick but critical first step in every first aid situation.
Once the scene is secure, focus on the “A” – airway. A blocked airway can become life-threatening within minutes if a person can’t breathe.
Start by using a finger sweep to remove any visible blockages from the victim’s mouth. Carefully tilt their head back while lifting the chin up to open the airway.
Look, listen and feel for breathing. If the person can’t breathe on their own, give two rescue breaths to provide oxygen.
Monitor the airway throughout your care, especially if the victim vomits or bleeding occurs in the mouth. Keeping the airway open allows oxygen to reach the lungs.
Now move on to “B” – breathing. With an open airway, check again for normal breathing.
Watch the chest closely for movement, listen near the mouth and nose for air exchange, and feel for breath on your cheek.
If the person isn’t breathing, begin CPR starting with chest compressions to circulate oxygen. Give 2 breaths for every 30 compressions.
Keep monitoring breathing to see if it becomes labored or the rate changes. Trouble breathing is a warning sign to call 911.
The “C” stands for circulation. Feel for a pulse at the victim’s neck or wrist to see if blood is pumping through the body.
No pulse means the heart has stopped – begin CPR immediately, starting with chest compressions. Proper compression depth and rhythm helps circulate blood to vital organs like the brain.
Check for return of spontaneous circulation by pausing to feel for a pulse every 2 minutes. Continue CPR until help arrives or the person revives.
“D” represents disability. This means quickly assessing how badly the person’s brain functioning is impaired.
Use the AVPU scale to check their level of consciousness:
- Alert – fully awake and aware
- Verbal – responds to spoken commands
- Pain – responds to painful stimuli only
- Unresponsive – doesn’t respond at all
Also watch the victim’s pupils to see if they are equal size, dilated or constricted.
Check for issues like paralysis, confusion, seizures or loss of alertness. All of these signify a disruption in normal brain function.
The “E” stands for exposure. This means examining the person’s body for injuries that need treatment.
Remove clothing around wounds, but avoid unnecessary exposure. Prevent heat loss by covering them with a blanket.
Look for medical ID tags indicating health conditions. Check for broken bones, burns, bleeding and other trauma.
Only expose the minimum area needed to treat immediate, life-threatening injuries before EMS arrives.
Signs and Symptoms
SAM also reminds you to look for signs and symptoms beyond the ABCDEs.
Notice changes like sweating, weakness, vomiting or skin color changes. Ask if they feel pain, nausea, headache, blurred vision or trouble breathing.
Monitor vital signs like breathing rate, pulse rate and skin temperature. Watch for signs of shock like rapid breathing and cool, pale skin.
Observing signs and symptoms helps you identify injuries and illnesses requiring first aid.
Always ask if the person has any known allergies, especially to medications. Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe.
Watch for symptoms of an allergic reaction like rash, swelling, trouble breathing, dizziness or shock.
Avoid giving ANY medication you aren’t sure about to prevent triggering a deadly reaction. Call 911 immediately if a severe reaction begins.
Ask about medications the person is taking. Look for medical ID indicating this. Some prescriptions, like blood thinners or insulin, are vital knowledge for emergency responders.
Aspirin, nitroglycerin pills and EpiPens may be critical for some medical emergencies like heart attack or anaphylaxis. Only give medications with consent.
Ask if the victim has any ongoing medical conditions like heart disease, asthma, diabetes, seizures, prior surgeries or implants. These could affect how you administer first aid.
Look for medical ID bracelets indicating health history. Conditions like pacemakers or pregnancy may alter how you give care.
Knowing relevant history helps you avoid causing further injury or complications. Share this vital information with EMS when they arrive.
Remembering SAM can be a real lifesaver in an emergency. It acts as a checklist to assess the person’s condition and guide your first aid response. SAM stands for Scene safety, Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, and Exposure. It also reminds you to look for Signs/Symptoms, Allergies and Medications. Using the SAM acronym helps you focus on the most critical lifesaving actions first. With SAM as your guide, you can provide effective first aid with confidence!