Moving a person in need

The condition of a collapsed or injured person may be made worse by movement: increasing pain, injury, blood loss and shock. However, a person lying in a hazardous area, for example on a road or railway, may need to be moved to ensure safety.

A rescuer should move a person when needed to:

  • Ensure the safety of both rescuer and the person in need.
  • Protect from extreme weather conditions.
  • Enable evacuation from difficult terrain.
  • Enable the care of airway and breathing (e.g., turning the unconscious breathing person onto the side or turning a collapsed person onto their back to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
  • Enable the control of severe bleeding.

An unresponsive person who is breathing normally is positioned into a lateral, side-lying recovery (lateral recumbent) position as opposed to leaving them supine.

It is reasonable to roll a face-down unresponsive person onto their back to assess airway and breathing and initiate resuscitation. Concern for protecting the neck should not hinder the evaluation process or lifesaving procedures.

Ideally, the most experienced rescuer should take charge and stay with the person in need while another rescuer is sent to seek help. If movement is necessary and help is available, the rescuer in charge should explain clearly and simply the method of movement to the assistants, and to the person in need if they are conscious.

When ready to move the person in need:

  • Avoid bending or twisting the person’s neck and back: a spinal injury can be aggravated by rough handling.
  • Try to have three or more people to assist in the support of the head and neck, chest, pelvis, and limbs while moving the person. A spinal board may be used if available.  A single rescuer may need to drag the person; an ankle drag or arm-shoulder drag is acceptable.
  • Make prompt arrangements for transport by ambulance to hospital.

There are a variety of ways to move or lift a casualty. The following is a list of the more commonly used manual handling techniques:


Used when the casualty is in danger and needs to be moved quickly. This is dangerous to all involved. Drag the casualty using an ankle drag or arm/shoulder drag, avoiding movement of the casualty’s neck and spine. Always support the casualty’s head.

Arm Assistance

This is used for the casualty who can walk and support their own weight on both legs. The casualty places one arm across the first aider’s shoulders and the first aider places one arm around the casualty’s back.

Carry Lift

This is normally used for children. The first aider carries the casualty in both arms.

Blanket Lift

The casualty is placed on a strong blanket that can be carried by two or more people.

Two Handed Seat

The hands of two first aiders are interlocked, and the casualty can sit on the first aiders hands, placing their arms around the first aiders shoulders for further support.