The prevalent culture in Egypt in case of emergency is to shout for help. Egyptians are notorious for lacking the knowhow to handle emergency situations; an average person faced with distress would normally yell “Help!” and let others come to the rescue. Such rescue could be through personal endeavour which may or may not be beneficial, or through calling official apparatuses such as the Police, Ambulance or Fire Fighters. Predictably, help could come on time, or too late. Sadly, Egyptians lack both the skill to deal with emergency and the awareness of how important this skill is.
Fires are among the terrible cases of this absent societal culture. A fire at home, in the workplace or any facility causes people to panic, scream and run away to safety. Only later do they call the fire department—that is if they know its number in the first place. Unfortunately, people in Egypt are not trained to spot the reason for the fire and accordingly put it out by the portable fire extinguishers required by law in all buildings. If this does not work, the fire department should be directly called. I here note that the licensing procedure of any building mandates inclusion of strict civil defence requirements to secure the building and its inmates against fire; this includes provision of firefighting means and emergency exits. Tragically, however, the strictness that secures civil defence requirements as precondition to licensing does not extend to ensuring they are in place once the building is completed or that they are maintained in working order once the building is in use. Neither does it assure that skilful calibres are at hand to deal with emergency.
In this context, I recall Watani’s experience years ago when we decided to equip our offices with fire extinguishers. As soon as we closed the deal with the company selling us the firefighting equipment, they asked us to nominate three persons from among our in-house staff to train on managing situations if ever a fire should erupt. I noticed at the time that the training did not only cover the operation of the extinguishers, but extended to psychologically qualifying the trainees to be composed and calm, not to panic, and to focus on swiftly evacuating the place while they operate the fire extinguishers. Our three employees were trained to do so even before calling the fire department for help.
The culture of dealing with emergency is crucial in many areas of our lives. As such, it warrants educating Egyptians and raising their awareness on dealing with distressful situations. This applies especially to first aid which we may need to apply with family and friends, work colleagues, or people we may encounter any time at any place. In many cases, the life of accident victims hinges on first aid directly administered on site before any outside help arrives.
Still fresh in mind is the incident that occurred a few weeks ago during one of the Euro 2021 football games, when Denmark’s player Christian Eriksen collapsed on the field during a game with Finland’s team—without even a touch with any other player—and suddenly lost consciousness. The referee directly stopped the game, rushed to see what happened, and called the medical team. Meanwhile, another player of the Danish team, Simon Kjaer, dashed to Eriksen and swiftly assessed his condition before performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Eriksen even before the medical team arrived and took over. Everyone avowed that the timely intervention of Kjaer saved Eriksen’s life. Kjaer was hailed as a hero for rescuing his teammate.
In the wake of that incident, Wataninet posted an opinion piece from Ashraf Helmy, an Egyptian Australian journalist who contributes to our site, in which he stressed the crucial importance of educating athletes on first aid. Mr Helmy wrote: “I call on all government and sports institutions to work to draft legislation that would ban sports players, trainers and employees from enrolling in any form of sports without taking first aid courses.” Mr Helmy recommends refreshers for these courses to be taken every year. He alluded to Eriksen’s collapse and the timely intervention of his teammate. According to Mr Helmy, Kjaer was able to do that thanks to his first aid knowledge. Mr Helmy reminded that first aid skills are a prerequisite for many posts and activities in many countries around the world. “It is time we realise the importance of first aid and imperativeness of educating people on it,” he wrote.
I have relayed the message, as God is my witness.
25 June 2021