FAAE News, First Aid Advice

How To Survive a Shark Attack


How To Survive

a Shark Attack


Given the recent spate of shark attacks in Australia, the team at First Aid Accident & Emergency (FAAE) has decided to put together a guide on some of the best techniques when it comes to surviving a shark attack.

Sharks are predators and normally hunt their natural prey—marine creatures. Sometimes, however, they get a little bit edgy and attack a person. The result is often quite severe with large lacerations that can result in catastrophic bleeding.

At FAAE, we teach tens of thousands of people how to manage critical situations every year, so we’ve decided to put together a few simple steps to counteract this severe bleeding and possibly save a life in a shark attack scenario.


The human body holds approximately 5-7 litres of blood and a significant laceration on the thigh or limbs can easily turn deadly in moments.

Severe haemorrhage is the most common cause of fatality in a shark attack situation, so having a basic plan and the right know-how can make the difference between life and death. Ensure you’re really ready for a medical emergency by checking out our first aid courses and defibrillator shop.

Step 1: Stay as CALM as you can!

Sharks are like dogs, if you panic or turn away, they come in for the kill. Keep eyes on the shark and it will help you to guard yourself and your vital points, the experts tell us that sharks know that we are watching them! If the shark starts coming in hard, punch and hit the shark in the nose and gills. If it comes to it, fight for your life if the attack is on. If you have a surfboard, spear gun or other objects handy, use it and get it between you and the shark and give it a jab with whatever you have. This is a no-rules fight, so keep as cool as you can and fight back.

Step 2: Get out of the water—it’s a hot zone!

Don’t worry about treating yourself now because you are still under threat and in an extremely dangerous situation, we call this a ‘HOT ZONE’. Not much treatment can be done here as it’s just too dangerous. Alert anyone else in the area to get out by yelling “get out of the water—SHARK.” Try to stay as calm as possible and do not to thrash on the way out as this will attract the shark, slow and steady movements are recommended. Move in the direction of the beach, boat or anything above the water line. If possible, try to keep an eye on the predator as this may also help you to attack it if comes in for another look.

Step 3: Send for HELP.
Not going to lie to you here—if you have a big bleed, you’ll need to stop it quick and get advanced medical care in a hurry, either call or get someone to call ‘000’ NOW. You need someone with a heavy foot in an ambulance.

We are only giving you the steps for the first 10-20 minutes. The next level is required by the Ambos—they need to hit you with IV fluids and a very fast trip to a medical facility!

Expert Tip: If you don’t know where you are, use smart smartphone app called Emergency+. This amazing app will give you your exact location and you can pass this onto the 000 operator for a bullet quick extraction!

Step 4: Assess yourself for bleeding

Cover the main areas first—neck, thighs and arms. We call this a ‘blood sweep.’

You don’t have long if you have a serious bleed in any of the main areas, so use your time wisely. It’s also best to get yourself as flat as possible while doing the sweep, this will help to keep you awake and conscious for a bit longer so you can get the job done.

If you lose consciousness prior to stopping the bleed, you’re in a lot of trouble.

If there is a big bleed, you may not know as your body is now full of adrenaline. This may mask the pain of the injury. Look for it with a ‘blood sweep’, wipe your hands all over the key areas, neck, upper arms and upper legs and inside thighs, check your hand for traces of blood by bringing your hands up to your face. This ‘Blood Sweep’ technique is used in the military for life threatening bleeding and it is the best way to identify the big bleeds.

Expert Tip– Treat yourself for hypovolemic shock (significant blood loss). Get flat and if the injury permits, raise your legs. This will help stabilise your blood pressure and increase your chance of survival.

Step 5: Stop the bleeding NOW

If you have life threatening bleeding, it will be bright red in colour, possibly spurting but not always. The significant arteries that will bleed the fastest are arterial bleeds, this type of bleeding will be from the key areas—neck, upper leg, inside thigh and upper arm or bicep area. If you have this type of bleed, jump into action quick by cutting the blood off from the affected limb, this is done with an arterial tourniquet or improvised tourniquet. You need to make this happen in the first few minutes before the body loses too much blood.

Most of you will be thinking, can we still us a tourniquet? YES, is the answer. Tourniquets are now widely accepted for life threatening bleeding. They have been clinically tested to cause no harm for over 2 hours and do save lives in emergency situations.

Expert tip: Do not use a towel to stop bleeding! A towel will suck all the blood out of your body and bleed you dry quicker.

Using a Tourniquet:

There are a few tourniquets on the market and they all do the same job—cut the arms or legs off from blood flow. They require a little practice and some knowledge to use, but here we go:

  • Assess the bleed by sweeping the area, quickly expose the injury and check for the bleed
  • Apply the tourniquet high, tight and horizontal on the affected limb
  • Use the windless to tighten the device as much as humanly possible
  • Check to see if the pressure has been effective in stopping the bleeding. If not, a second tourniquet can be applied. This case would mostly be on a leg because legs are usually quite thick and may need additional circumferential pressure
  • Pack the wound with a shirt or clean dressing—not a towel

Step 6: Look after yourself until medical help arrives

Make sure you’re flat on your back on the ground. This will help stabilise blood pressure and keep the heart and brain perfused (full of blood). Stay awake. This will look after your airway, if you pass out, you may vomit and drown from it. If you feel like you’re going to faint, get yourself into the recovery position—on your side. This will help to reduce any airway issues if you pass out.

Expert tip: get warm. Research shows that if you lose as little as 2 degrees of core temperature, your blood loses most of its effectiveness to clot and a bleed out is imminent! Get rid of the wet or bloodied clothing and wrap yourself in a blanket, jacket, surfboard cover—anything that’s available to warm up.

To ensure you’re ready for any kind of medical emergency, consider a first aid course with our team of specialists. We’re the experts when it comes to first aid, CPR and defibrillators. Contact us today for any other enquires.

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