This was a very special year for European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, because no less than three anniversaries were celebrated at the annual meeting of first aid leaders, held in October 2006:
- the 15th anniversary of the First Aid Education European Network. The network, which brings together 52 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, allows a sharing of knowledge and experience, encourages the widest possible dissemination of first aid through high quality programmes, and supports national and trans-national activities in the field;
- the 10th anniversary of the European Reference Centre for First Aid Education. The Centre encourages and supports cooperation between National Societies and also serves as the permanent link between network members;
- the 10th anniversary of the creation of the European First Aid Certificate.
In order to celebrate these three anniversaries in a symbolic framework, the annual meeting was held in the native city of Henry Dunant, the founder of the International Red Cross, in Geneva, from October 4 to 7. It brought together representatives of 32 National Societies.
Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Europe train more than 3 million people every year in first aid – that is more than half of the estimated 5,900,000 people trained in life-saving techniques annually on the continent. And the quality of their expertise is recognized all over the continent.
During the opening ceremony, held at the Secretariat of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the European Network’s past and current initiatives and achievements were highlighted. Among them, the European First Aid Certificate, the development of the concept of competence-based training, European First Aid Day, the Internet site dedicated to first aid (www.firstaidinaction.net), and the management of European road safety and civil protection projects.
So far, the European First Aid Certificate has been adopted by 30 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This harmonization of first aid techniques, begun on a European scale, has been supported by the International Federation for more than ten years.
The Network’s 15th annual meeting was the occasion to announce the publication of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ first electronic, on-line first aid manual. The European First Aid Manual (EFAM), which will soon be available to the world on the Internet, features digital texts and high-resolution photographs. It is designed as an easy-to-use, top-level reference for first aid instructors and authors, to help them develop publications and other didactic materials.
The project was initiated by the Belgian Red Cross and supported by the European Commission. It brought together 29 European experts to draft a set of guidelines on how best to administer first aid in certain situations. Some are innovative, and the manual also includes existing guidelines such as the generalized positioning, in public places, of automated external defibrillators, which can re-start a heart that has stopped or is beating irregularly.
“These recommendations are based on the results of scientific studies and this is important, since wrong instructions can lead to inadequate or even harmful interventions,” explains Stijn Van de Velde, coordinator of the project at the Belgian Red Cross. “Thanks to the new manual, the best first aid techniques can be taught and learned, in the same way, all over Europe.”
Every year, there are some 100 million medical emergencies in Europe, ranging from cardiac arrests, to traffic accidents, domestic accidents and injuries sustained in disasters. Taking immediate action and applying the appropriate first aid techniques during the first critical minutes after an accident can save tens of thousands of lives.
According to Dr. Pascal Cassan, coordinator of the Federation’s European Reference Centre for First Aid Education, studies have proven that, when at least 30% of the population is trained in first aid, the chances of survival of an accident victim increase considerably. “This is why 52 European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have, as a common goal, to increase by 4 % each year the number of people trained in life-saving first aid techniques, and the new electronic manual can be an essential tool to achieve this,” he notes.
The meeting was a good forum for National Societies to present their national first aid activities. Several key subjects were also on the agenda, such as the European Resuscitation Council’s 2005-6 recommendations, cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillation training, first aid training for groups considered as vulnerable, new developments in the European First Aid Certificate, the latest results of scientific and pedagogical studies in first aid, and updates on the state of several projects which are co-funded by the European Commission.
Because each human being has the capacity to save lives, European Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have reiterated their commitment to work towards the objective of having at least one person per family, per work place or per public site, trained to perform the basic life-saving first aid techniques to preserve the physical integrity of a victim.
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