Forget the Hashtag: Emergencies aren’t Social Fodder

I was on my way to a Military Ball at RAAF Base East Sale yesterday afternoon when I was confronted with the aftermath of a serious head on collision between two cars.

As emergency services had yet to arrive, I left my car (and passenger) and began to assess the scene. I’m the type of person who feels compelled to help; and I have some useful law enforcement skills to contribute.

My command and control training kicked in and by the time the Police, Ambulance and SES arrived I had established a triage and ensured the accident scene had been made as safe possible.

I actively provided first aid and comfort to one of the drivers while keeping a watching brief on the other who was being attended to by an off-duty emergency services officer.

On a busy, but rural stretch of the Princes Highway – traffic had come to a halt. People were standing outside their vehicles and if they weren’t assisting first responders in some way or speaking to Triple Zero operators, they were thinking on their feet in ways only country people tend to do:

“Does anyone know who they are?”

“Has anyone contacted their families?”

“Can I get your help redirecting traffic?”

“I need help to move the cars of those assisting on the scene so emergency services can get in…”

This isn’t the first time I’ve happened across a serious collision; the last time was in suburban Melbourne.

Only instead of rallying together and assisting the injured – locals briskly walked past or drove around the scene of the accident in their rush to get wherever it was they were going.

Curious bystanders took pictures and videos with their phones – instagramming, tweeting and posting the scene like a citizen journalist on a mission to break ‘news’. There was no sense of community. People weren’t talking to each other. They were happy to watch events unfold from behind the screen of their mobile device, rather than to actively be of any assistance.

Yesterday’s events reminded me of that accident in suburban Melbourne, and as I rode a prolonged post-traumatic adrenalin dump with my mind racing at warp speed; I was struck by the stark contrast in community response.

City folk seem less inclined to stop and help, while country folk rally together to muster whatever is required to assist.

If ever I have the misfortune to be involved in a serious accident – I pray it’s in the country.

Where people offer you their hand to hold, and words of comfort instead of taking pictures of your wrecked car.

Where the only tweets are the sounds of birds chirping in trees nearby; and the only thing being posted are the emergency services lighting rigs being made ready for the impending nightfall.

Emergencies aren’t social media fodder.

If you don’t have the ability to assist – at least have the decency to refrain from making someone’s misfortune your latest status update.