Biker Down! Learning to save a life

Back in June this year I attended Biker Down! a training initiative run between Sussex Safer Roads Partnership, Highways Agency, East Sussex Fire & Rescue Services and West Sussex Fire & Police Services. The purpose of the workshop is to learn about what to do if you’re the first at the scene of an accident, particularly when a motorcyclist is involved.

Because of the nature of the course, which is free and held with members of the public I can’t share any pictures or videos of the workshop, I hope I can paint a good picture of the evening and encourage some of you to go take part.

Before I tell you about my experience, here’s a video from the Kent Fire and Rescue Service talking about Biker Down!

The workshop is split into 3 modules, and is about 3, 3.5hrs in duration with a few tea breaks.

First on the scene

In the first session we looked through a number of accident photos to talk about what we could and what we thought we should do if we were present. This covered some observation skills like how are you going to describe the seen to emergency services – and crucially which one are you going to call first – because you can only request one when dialling 999.

This revelation sparked some interesting debate with many people feeling a sense of outrage that everyone doesn’t just turn up. It was then made apparent why when we were shown some statistics on the number of responding vehicles we have in the whole of the South East; not just Sussex thanks to the budgetary cuts enforced by the government in recent years. Let me put it this way – there are only three motorcycles; or rapid response units between Chichester, Guildford and Rye.

To help us out, our present police officer told us about SODAPOPS. This is the system used by the 999 centre agents to determine whether an office needs to be sent to the scene. I’ll break down the parts for you, you need to have one of these statements in your 999 call to trigger a person to attend – so remember them!

Serious damage caused
This is in fact not about people directly, but for example has the vehicle taken out a signal, lights etc which could cause further incident.

Other property or road damaged
If the vehicle has piled into the front of a coffee shop for example, somebody needs to turn up and ensure the property is safe to be in.

Defect vehicle/road
If there’s a burning vehicle in the road, it will damage the tarmac, this could cause sinkholes, which could cause further damage. The fire would indicate a defect with the car naturally.

*Animal killed or injured
Incredibly there are still a few get-out clauses here which I’ll highlight below. Essentially the animal has to be property of a human. This is why when I totalled my MG ZR a few years back thanks to a late night leaping deer – the police didn’t attend.

Particulars not exchanged
The obvious one here would be in the case of a hit and run incident. However, any time you have had an accident or been witness to one and information is not exchanged between drivers, you should report it to the emergency services, you have no idea whether you have concussion, or any kind of injury that may affect you later. It also means there is no evidence the event occurred so having a police officer out to write up the report would be smart.

Offence involved/alleged
Essentially, if there’s belief that anyone involved is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there’s been a violent altercation, doesn’t have insurance etc.

Police vehicle
Amazingly, if a police vehicle is involved in an incident they will attend. Who would have figured?

Special circumstances
It wasn’t clear what this was, but I know that dropping your teddy out the car window on the M4 is not covered as special circumstances.

*Animals covered: Pig, Cattle, Sheep, Moose, Ass, Goat, Mule, Dog

There was a lot to take in but the key takeaway for me was about where to park your bike in relation to the accident and that you should try to signal down other passing vehicles because a few hands on the scene is better than one, especially if there’s a cardiac arrest (come to that later).

First Aid

Probably the thing that most people came for, and perhaps the most insightful. Everyone was given a first aid kit which included way more sensible things than you’d normally get from one in the highstreet. This itself was probably worth £50.00.

Two things that were most interesting to me was the information on helmet removal and providing CPR.

Removing a motorcycle helmet from a biker down

For most of my life I’ve had the understanding that you’re not meant to remove the helmet from a biker in an accident for fear of making worse, or causing spinal/cranial injuries. Turns out, as with many things this depends.

First of all, you should pop the visor and see if you can communicate with them. If they can hear you, and you can talk to them you can find out what’s going on. If you can speak to them you can determine if it is safe to remove their helmet. In many cases getting it off is a relief and helps with shock and panic attacks.

If you can’t establish contact, you need to check their vital signs. Pulse on the neck is a must, so you’ll need to undo the strap. If things don’t seem right you’re still going to want to get the helmet off to see what’s happening. If there’s two of you this is a bit easier but it can be done with just one person.

Why do we do CPR?

We’ve all seen it right? X number of pushes on the chest and X blows in the mouth and boom! they’re alive. Well as we all found out, that is pure fiction.

We only do CPR, or compressions on the chest, when our patient is in fact dead. Sad, but true. What we’re in fact doing is trying to continue the pumping of blood throughout the body in the hopes of keeping organs and anything else alive whilst waiting for a paramedic with some jumper cables. Only electric charges through the system can resuscitate somebody in this scenario. Mouth blowing is only good for cleaning the airways, notably in the vent of drowning, it can in fact cause a reaction if somebody has stopped breathing but has a pulse to clear the lungs and regain operations.

What did I learn? That it is really hard work to keep that tempo up, and this is why it is suggested to flag down passers by because when you get tired somebody else can take over. Also you really do have to push down. Somebody in my group queried – but that seems aggressive couldn’t we cause damage? Our instructor replied “yes, quite possibly, but they’re dead. You brake a few ribs, is it really worse”?

Becoming less of a risk

I confess within the final section I had kind of checked-out. In a nut shell it was discussing whether or not high-vis is actually making riders safer (apparently not always) and that you should think about block colours that match your bike to make you just look like a bigger bike. There were some interesting points in here about dazzle camouflage and that high-vis can often have this effect whereby the vehicle on bottom can seem closer/further away than the person on top.

Signing up to a Biker Down! event

The event is highly popular, especially when it comes to summer time as it only runs once a month (in fact the South East Biker Down! is booked up now until January 2017). This I think is a travesty as it is such a valuable resource to have, but please remember it is voluntary, you don’t have to pay to attend, these skilled and patient men and women are here to protect us every day and they’re doing this for free.