How communication can save lives

Did you know that 140,000 people die in the UK each year in situations where first aid might have saved their life? This is as many people as die from cancer. Yet less than one-in-five of us know basic first aid.

KatieThis shocking statistic was shared with me by Katie Chappelle (pictured) who is PR & Media Manager at St John Cymru Wales, a first aid charity with 4,600 volunteers across the country. Katie trained and worked as a broadcast journalist, before moving to a PR agency in Cardiff, then joining the charity.

She can be found tweeting @Katie_Chappelle and St John Wales at @StJohnWales. Here she writes for my blog to share how communicating via a new app is helping to spread the word and potentially saving lives. Over to you Katie…

Making First Aid downloadable

As Wales’ leading first aid charity, this lack of knowledge about first aid is the challenge we face.  Our vision is to have a first aider on every street in Wales. Our 4,600 volunteers are fully trained, and we deliver courses to around 15,000 people a year at our training sites across Wales. But we still have some way to go.

The agriculture sector is one of the most dangerous with 40-50 agriculture workers are killed on UK farms every year – almost one death every week. First aid training is crucial for this sector, who are often working in hard-to-reach rural areas when accidents occur.

We have a long-standing relationship with the Wales Young Farmers Cymru (YFC). We held a focus group with a division of the young farmers, to discuss their first aid needs and how they would like us to communicate our first aid advice. Originally we thought of producing a series of films available to view on YouTube. However, we soon realised that targeting phones and tablets would be a better option, as all of the farmers said they carry phones with them at all times.

And so our first aid app was born.

iOS St John WalesThere were already first aid apps available and we wanted to offer something different. It was important that our app was bilingual in English and Welsh for a start, as many farming communities speak Welsh as a first language.

It also needed to be able to work in rural areas, where there might not be a mobile signal available. And we decided that not only did the app need advice for common agricultural accidents, such as amputation or crush injuries, but general first aid advice for the public such as dealing with burns, severe bleeding and how to give CPR.

We were supported by British Telecom (BT) who funded the development and launch of the app. Partnerships with other parties were important and the app launch at the Royal Welsh Agricultural Show in July was promoted by the Farmers Union of Wales and National Farmers Union, as well was the Wales YFC.

That week we had more than 1500 downloads.

How communication can save lives

Phase two was to roll out the app to the general public. A case study fell into our laps, which enabled us to do that, when 54-year-old Roger Van Praet contacted me to say that the app had saved his life.

Roger (pictured) had downloaded the app when visiting the Welsh show, at the insistence of his wife, who was first aid trained. A few weeks later Roger was travelling to Bristol for work when he began feeling unwell.

By the time he checked into his hotel he was experiencing quite bad pains in his chest and difficulty breathing. He looked at the app, which advised him that his symptoms; chest pain, trouble breathing, faintness, a rapid pulse and profuse sweating were all signs of a cardiac arrest and to call 999.

Roger Van Praet and St John Wales’ life saving first aid app3Roger said, “I was shocked as I didn’t realise that was what was happening to me, but I followed the advice given.

“By the time the ambulance arrived I was unable to even move off the bed. The paramedics rushed me to the nearest hospital where I was given emergency surgery to remove a clot and fit a stent within what the doctors referred to as the ‘golden hour’.

“Medical staff told me that if I had waited much longer to get treatment, the outcome would have been very different.”

Roger has now made a full recovery and the first aid app has been downloaded by more than 7000 people, including our volunteers and trainers who are using it as a learning tool.

We’re currently in the process of developing a windows version of the app, with further plans to create more apps in 2014.

Post author: Katie Chappelle

Thank you for sharing your story Katie, I’ve downloaded the free app as a result and glad to know Roger is doing well.

I recommend you do too. You can find it via on Google Play and on the App store.

You can find St John Wales online on their website plus Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram.

Got a story about communication to share? If so, you could see your name here. Tweet me @AllthingsIC, comment below or complete my contact form with your idea. Please read my guest article guidelines first.

Further reading

Want to read other stories by comms pros? See my guest archive to read 80 stories covering topics as diverse as introverts, Middle Eastern comms trends and the role of comedy in comms.

allthingsicThis week my first monthly podcast was published – AllthingsIC with Rachel Miller, part of the For Immediate Release podcast network. It’s 20 minutes long, free and focuses on internal communication.

This means my weekly internal comms TV show will be scaled back and I’ll only record a show if there’s something groundbreaking in future that I want to communicate that way.

I’ve written full notes to accompany the podcast so you don’t need to, and you can read them here.

Listen here:


Thank you, Rachel.

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