First Aid Guidelines

These First Aid guidelines have been gleaned from various responsible websites and were developed to serve in case you are called upon to offer first aid on the trail or elsewhere. As you know all hikers do so at their own risk and you are not expected to be trained in First Aid.


In most cases, dial 911.

For snakebite, call Banner Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or Arizona Poison Control and Drug Information Center at 1-800-362-0101.


In the event of a major emergency, where outside help is needed, consider the following:

  • Ask the casualty what they would like you to do to help. If the casualty is responsive, he or she should be in charge of the care as much as possible.
  • If the casualty is non-ambulatory (cannot reach a trailhead on his own or with the help of other hikers), call 911.
  • If there is no cell service, activate the Garmin SOS alert.
  • Send two of the quickest and most reliable hikers to where there is cell phone coverage, or to the trailhead as may be needed. They may be required to direct emergency services to the casualty site so make sure they have the casualty location’s coordinates.
  • Attend to the first aid needs of the casualty as best as possible.
  • Assess resources of all the hikers: emergency blankets, fire making ability, flashlights, water, food, etc.
  • Send any hikers not needed for emergency response home to be safely off trail before dark.
  • Send messages via Garmin inReach to Hiking Club monitors (pre-programmed in the inReach).
  • Prepare for after dark rescue by gathering firewood and preparing fire for lighting.
  • If two way radios are available, a person may be able to extend the range of radios by being in a high location between two other locations.
  • Police and helicopter rescue crews use FRS (basic walkie-talkie) radios when it helps, so be prepared beforehand with radios on the hike and practice using the radios.


If it is hot, hikers may fall victim to heat cramps, heat exhaustion or, in extreme cases, heat stoke. Drink plenty of liquids to avoid heat-related emergencies.

Heat Cramps: These are the least serious and usually occur in the leg muscles due to loss of body salts from heavy perspiration. Move to a cool place, rest and drink water, preferably cold, and take electrolytes if available.

Heat Exhaustion: This can become serious and is indicated by cold, clammy skin, slightly elevated temperature and possibly loss of consciousness. Move immediately to cool place and elevate legs, give cool water, cool the body with water and shade, and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Heat Stroke: This is the most serious heat-related problem, and the typical symptoms are hot, dry or wet skin, 105° temperature or higher, usually loss of consciousness.  Move immediately to cool place and elevate head and shoulders. A casualty may be cooled by using water to wet the person’s shirt and scalp. Shade may be provided using hiker’s emergency blankets.  Heat Stroke is life-threatening! After victim is cooled, transport immediately to nearest medical facility.  


According to the American Red Cross, these steps should be taken:

  • Wash the bite with clean water and soap.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • If the bite is on the hand or arm remove any rings, watches or tight clothing.
  • Get medical help immediately.

The Banner Poison Control Center recommends that persons seek medical attention immediately, and if a long distance from help, walk out slowly. You have time to get help. There is no need to try to capture the snake, because all treatments will be the same at the hospital. For snakebite, call Banner Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or Arizona Poison Control and Drug Information Center at 1-800-362-0101.’

Most bites don’t occur in isolated situations where the victim may be a long distance from medical help. Some medical professionals, along with the American Red Cross, cautiously recommend two other measures:

  • If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, may help slow venom. The bandage should not cut off blood flow from a vein or artery. A good rule of thumb is to make the band loose enough that a finger can slip under it.
  • A suction device may be placed over the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. Suction instruments often are included in commercial snakebite kits.


Snakebite first aid methods are not always agreed upon by U.S. medical professionals, but they are nearly unanimous in their views of what NOT to do.

  • NO ice or any other type of cooling on the bite.
  • NO tourniquets.
  • NO electric shock.
  • NO incisions in the wound.


If someone has a cardiac arrest or heart attack there may be only a few minutes to act before it is too late. It is vital to know what to do beforehand.

Heart Attack Symptoms in adults may include:

  • Changes in mental status, particularly in the elderly
  • Chest pain that feels like pressure, squeezing, or fullness: The pain is usually in the center of the chest. It may also be felt in the jaw, shoulder, arms, back, and stomach. It lasts for more than a few minutes, or it may come and go.
  • Cold sweat
  • Light-headedness
  • Nausea (more common in women)
  • Numbness, aching, or tingling in the arm (usually the left arm)
  • Weakness or fatigue, particularly in the elderly


    • Have the person sit down, rest, and try to keep calm.
    • Loosen any tight clothing.
    • Ask if the person takes any chest pain medication for a known heart condition, such as nitroglycerin, and help them take it.
    • If the pain does not go away promptly with rest or within 3 minutes of taking nitroglycerin, call for emergency medical help.
    • If they are breathing, place them in the recovery position, and then call for help from the emergency services.
    • If the person is unconscious and unresponsive, call 911 or activate the Garmin inReach SOS.  Then begin chest compressions.


    • Lie victim on a firm surface (make as comfortable as possible).
    • Kneel by the side of the victim
    • Place the heel of one hand in the centre of the victim’s chest (the lower half of the sternum, or breastbone)
    • Place the heel of your other hand on top of the first. Interlock your fingers together
    • Keep your elbows straight and bring your bodyweight over your hands to make it easier to press down vertically
    • Press down firmly and quickly to achieve a downwards movement of 2 inches, then relax and repeat the compression. After each compression, release all the pressure on the chest without losing contact between the hands and the sternum
    • Aim for a rate of compression of about 100 per minute. You can help your timing and counting by saying out loud ‘one and two and three and four…’ etc.
    • Do this 30 times, then give artificial respiration twice, and continue this 30:2 procedure until help arrives.


    • Tilt the head back and lift up the chin.
    • Pinch the nostrils shut with two fingers to prevent leakage of air.
    • Take a deep breath and seal your own mouth over the person’s mouth.
    • Breathe slowly into the person’s mouth – it should take about two seconds to adequately inflate the chest.
    • Do this twice.
    • Check to see if the chest rises as you breathe into the patient.
    • If it does, enough air is being blown in.
    • Repeat this procedure until help arrives or the person starts breathing again.


    • If possible, get someone else to help – one person to perform artificial respiration and the other to perform CPR.
    • The ratio of chest compressions to breaths is 30:2 for both one-person and two-person CPR.
    • Continue until the ambulance arrives or the patient gets a pulse and starts to breathe again.
    • If the pulse returns and breathing begins but the person remains unconscious, roll them gently onto their side into the recovery position. This way mucus or vomit can get out of the mouth and will not obstruct the patient’s breathing. It also prevents the tongue from falling back and blocking the air passage.

If you succeed in resuscitating the person who has been taken ill, he or she may be confused and alarmed by all the commotion. Keep the patient warm and calm by quietly, but clearly, telling them what has happened.


If you are having a stroke, you are more likely to have one or more sudden warning signs:

  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg, especially on one side
  • Confusion or trouble understanding other people
  • Trouble speaking
  • Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
  • Trouble walking or staying balanced or coordinated
  • Dizziness
  • Severe headache that comes on for no known reason

If a stroke is suspected, invoke emergency procedures immediately to get the casualty to the nearest medical help.