Situational Awareness

in First Aid

Condition White, Yellow, Orange & Red—how do these military and police techniques relate to your first aid training?

Here at First Aid Accident & Emergency, we’ve incorporated situational awareness into our First Aid and CPR courses. This comes from previous military and police training, as well as the late Jeff Cooper’s “Colour Code” of situational awareness. In fact, this colour code has been taught by police instructors and the military for many years and we think it will help you become a better first aider.

We also believe that this is something that is easy to train and if not practiced becomes a perishable skill—if you don’t use it, you lose it! We have broken down situational awareness into four levels of alertness. This system is a mental process, not a physical one and should be utilised whenever you are in a first aid situation or treating a patient in an unfamiliar environment. Being alert in all situations may help you avoid a threat in the first place, which is always the preferred outcome.

Condition White: Completely Relaxed

Heart rate between 65 to 75 BPM and only 5% awareness. In condition white, you are relaxed and unaware of what is going on around you. Examples of this include when we are asleep or in some other environment that we assume to be safe, often dropping our guard. For example, walking down the street whilst distracted by your mobile phone. You are also exposed when drunk or on drugs. We think it is better to be alert in most situations and not be ambushed by a scare or the environment.

We teach our students that even on a night out you don’t let yourself slip into “level white” because if you are attacked while in this condition, you won’t see it coming and may end up becoming another “one punch kills” statistic! Here at FAAE, we recommend that you always stay alert and keep an eye on things even when treating a patient.

Condition Yellow: Relaxed

Heart rate between 65 and 75 BPM—only 50% awareness. In condition yellow, you remain relaxed but are still aware of who and what is around you. This means you are paying attention to the sights and sounds at both home and work.

Condition yellow means you have moved your alertness to a level of attention that will prevent you from being totally surprised by the actions of another person. This means that when walking through an area, you have a mild awareness and keep track of anyone around you. If you are attacked or confronted by a medical emergency in condition yellow, it should not come as a total surprise. Your response should have been pre planned to some extent, allowing you to jump into action reasonably quickly.

Condition Orange: Fully Aware

Heart rate above 100BPM—99% awareness. In condition orange, you have identified that there is an emergency, and this may also be accompanied by a threat. Until you determine what is happening, you’re in full alert mode.

If you are confronted with a medical emergency or a threat in condition orange, you are best equipped to handle it. Make sure you are facing your body towards the injured and threat and continue to scan and breath. Scope the lay of the land and evaluate any changes as they happen. If you are well trained, you will already have a plan and be well versed to execute it by pre-visualising all the “what if” situations. This is where we recommend your situational awareness level should be for the best treatment and threat awareness.

Condition Red: Fully Stressed

Heart rate above 140BPM—5% awareness. Once you’ve shifted to condition red, you may have trouble focusing on a task as you are fully stressed. This is not recommended for effective treatment and may cause you to freeze or panic. You lose cognitive function and have trouble making judgement calls.

Here you can see our senior FAAE trainers Wendy and Scott operating at a high level of situational awareness, one team member is ‘eyes down’ and the other is ‘eyes up’ in the field.

If you would like to learn more about situational awareness in first aid—check out our first aid courses or get in contact with our team of experts. For all your first aid and defibrillator needs, take a look at our online shop. We stock a range of defibrillators and defibrillator packs to help make sure you’re ready for any medical emergency.

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