skip to main content


When is it okay to move an injured victim?

A rescuer should move a collapsed or injured victim:

  • to ensure the safety of both the rescuer and the victim

  • where extreme weather conditions or difficult terrain indicate that movement of the victim is essential

  • to make possible the care of airway, breathing, and circulation.

    (For example, an unconscious breathing victim should be turned on their side.)

  • to make possible the control of bleeding.

Note: The airway takes precedence over any fracture, including a broken neck.

When moving an injured person avoid bending and/or twisting the neck and back.
Use as many people as possible.
Support the head, neck, shoulders, pelvis and limbs.
Ensure that all movement is slow and controlled.
If the rescuer is alone, a drag technique may be necessary.

Why is it necessary to place an unconscious victim on their side?

The unconscious victim is turned on their side to:

  • obtain and maintain a clear airway

  • provide ready access to the airway

  • facilitate drainage and lessen the risk of inhaling foreign material

  • avoid unnecessary bending and twisting of the neck

  • permit continuing observation of the victim.

What if the unconscious person has suspected spinal injuries?

With an unconscious casualty, care of the airway takes precedence over any other injury.

Any unconscious casualty must be handled gently with no twisting or forward movement of the head and spine.

What is laryngeal spasm?

Laryngeal spasm is the persistent contraction of the muscles of the larynx (voice box) causing the vocal cords to come together, and resulting in partial or complete blockage of the entrance to the trachea (windpipe). It is usually caused by foreign material at the entrance to the windpipe. This closure prevents the passage of air to and from the lungs. The casualty becomes blue or unconscious from a lack of oxygen. When consciousness is lost, the spasm usually relaxes.

If the casualty is conscious, reassure and encourage the relaxation of breathing.

If the casualty is unconscious, then the rescuer must utilise the D.R.A.B.C. Action Plan, taking particular care with airway management.

What is cyanosis?

Cyanosis is bluish discolouration of the skin and lining of the mouth. It is associated with inadequate oxygen in the blood.

What is basic life support (BLS)?

It is the preservation of life by the establishment of and/or maintenance of airway, breathing and circulation and related emergency care without the use of equipment. (Equipment in this definition does not exclude the use of pocket masks and other such barrier devices.)

What is non fatal drowning?

Non fatal drowning is the term used when an immersion victim survives for 24 hours after arrival at a medical facility. It implies that while initial resuscitation was successful, full recovery has not occurred.

Is resuscitation possible in the water?

During the course of a rescue, it may be necessary to commence expired air resuscitation (EAR) while still in the water. External cardiac compression (ECC) is not possible in the water but successful EAR has been documented on many occasions.

The principles of resuscitation in the water are similar to those for resuscitation on land:

  • establish a clear airway

  • check for presence or absence of breathing

  • if breathing is absent, commence EAR using the mouth to nose technique

  • check for pulse - this may be difficult if you are supporting a person in deep water

  • if there is no pulse, you will have to make a decision to get to shore as soon as possible. (This may mean not ventilating the person on the way to safety. If it is possible to perform EAR successfully in the water, then it may be safe to continue there but, in general, you should move the casualty to dry land as quickly as possible, to reduce the possibility of loss of body temperature.)

Successful deep water resuscitation is documented only where the rescuer was using some type of flotation aid, eg. board, jacket, or flippers (fins).



National Office

Royal Life Saving Society, New Zealand

Marie Baker, ONZM
71 Raine Street, East Wanganui, Wanganui 4500
Ph   (06)343 2677

Award Secretary:
Deidre Hitchcock

+ Text Size -