The 3 Cs of First Aid

Current Red Cross First Aid practice (in Canada at least) requires you to think about and act on the 3 Cs of First Aid. Use them with the 3 Ps & 4 Bs to guide care. Yes sometimes it does seem like we have an alphabet soup going on, but each approach compliments the others. So let’s consider – what are the 3 Cs of First Aid?

  • Check
  • Call
  • Care

Letter C in bonesThe 3 Cs of First Aid serve a variety of functions, but to me they contain two important messages:  First, the ‘care’ – the bit people actually think of as ‘doing first aid’ is the last part of the process. There’s more to first aid than the active treatments. Secondly the 3 Cs of First Aid remind us that ‘check’ is the first thing to do. Just like when we use the Dr ABC method, the first thing there is (check for) Danger. Same as when we practice this in class. So let’s review the 3 Cs of First Aid in detail.


The two important parts here are to check the person and to check the situation. This should be done first as you walk up. Is there any continuing danger? Including people, traffic, wildlife, rock-slides, avalanches, fires, fumes, electricity, etc. Then turn your attention to the person. Are they moving? Bleeding? Can they hear & respond to you? Is there a reason to ask them to keep still? Call out to them and see what kind of response you get.

Then check again as you get close enough to touch/talk to the person. Check around them for any danger you didn’t see – are you about to step on a wire? Kneel in glass? Do they have a weapon? And so on. At the same time you should be talking to them and checking their level or responsiveness. Consider checking ABCs if needed.


Based on your assessment so far, you should now be able to decide what kind of ‘call for help’ is needed and when to do it. For example, if dangers prevent you getting near the person, call for appropriate help. If you are alone with an unconscious, non-breathing adult you should be calling for EMS/an ambulance, etc. Where possible, get someone else to do the call for you while you move on to the care step.

[Review how to call EMS]


OK, now you can do the ‘treatment’ part – the ‘care’ step in the 3 Cs of First Aid. There’s no way we can outline every form of care in this post, so take a look around the site. Review the ABCs and be ready to do CPR if needed.

About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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