accessibility & help

Alcohol and first aid

Split-screen still of a girl drinking

High on the list of life’s social skills worth learning is that of staying alive - and helping others do the same.

Choose from two approaches to get young people prepared and reduce risk:

Story of a night out: 30-minute video lesson

Download the lesson plan which includes a starter, plenary and extension activities along with teacher’s notes.

After the class discussion starter, play the video in full:

This lesson is designed to be used before the 20-minute practical session in which students practise the ‘pushover’.

Alcohol and first aid: three-minute video and activities 

Clearing the airway

Write the following sentence on a board:

"An unconscious friend could choke to death"

Say it out loud. Spend a few minutes inviting reactions. Ask questions. What does it mean? Is it obvious? Is it true? Is anything unclear about it? Did you know it already? What does it make you think of? Is it something you know but never think about? Are there situations where it is really important to remember? So what?

After discussion, say that it is true. Someone who is lying on their back unconscious and breathing is still vulnerable. When a person is unconscious their muscles relax and their tongue can block their airway so that they cannot breathe:




Diagram showing how the tongue can block the airway







Tilting the head back opens their airway by pulling the tongue forward:



Diagram showing how tipping the head back opens the airway









How would students check if someone is breathing or not? Say that the best way is to look at their chest to see if it’s moving and feel for breaths on your cheek.

There are things that any person of any age can do to help someone who is unconscious and breathing. Talk about how you might communicate that simple fact to a wide audience. How might you encourage teenagers into realising they could help and finding out what the right thing to do is? Would you try to scare them, plead with them, or joke with them?

Now look at what the British Red Cross did. It made a short video and arranged for it to be shown at cinemas.

Ask students to grade it under four specific categories. Did it

  • interest you?
  • tell you about the risks?
  • tell you what to do?
  • deliver its messages in a memorable way?

Write a review of the video, including responses to the above and suggesting who might find it useful. Try it as an individual writing exercise. For an oral and collaborative approach ask students to deliver their verdicts in pairs as an interview-style radio report.


Your call

You are at the same party as the girl in the video. You have had a drink too, and are enjoying things. You see her lying on the floor. List all the reasons you might not do anything. Then group them according to whether a shortage of knowledge or skills, or an attitude problem, is the main barrier to action.

For example:

  • It's a knowledge issue if you don't know that you have to put someone on their side with their head tilted back
  • It's a skills issue if you try to turn someone on their side and can't actually manage it.
  • It's an attitude issue if you are too shy and would prefer not to get involved.

Once you have a list of barriers, grouped according to the categories, examine them. Which category has the longest list? Do students think this means it is the most important one to take action on? Does it surprise them, or is it what they expected? Choose a promising area and begin to list solutions, ways to overcome the barriers. For instance:

  • If the barrier is knowledge about what to do, the solution might be in finding trustworthy sources and remembering the advice they give.
  • If the barrier lies in the skills of turning over, the solution might be to see how other people do it and practise on others (see pushover role play below) 
  • If the barrier is attitudinal, such as fear of being told off, the solution might be to discuss it. Talk about the worst thing that could happen and how you would cope with it if it did happen. Measure it against the worst possible result of doing nothing.

End by asking everyone to make write down one or more personal action points based on analysis of their own barriers to action. Anyone who feels they are fully skilled, knowledgeable and confident can support someone else in their action point. Set a date in a few weeks to revisit this and see how students got on with their action.


Who's done what?

Use this dash-around game as a way of introducing the subject by swapping past experiences. Try it before or after watching the video above. Modify the rules to suit anyone in the group with restricted mobility.

The format is "Swap places if...." Sit in chairs grouped in a circle. Participants listen as you call out various experiences. Anyone who fits the description has to change places rapidly with someone else - and not someone sitting next to them. Play it fast, as a warm up. Or pause after each statement, invite people to say more about their experiences, and so stimulate discussion and learn more about each other. Add your own statements appropriate to the group.

Swap places if you...

  • have ever dialled 999
  • have heard of the recovery position
  • would worry about turning someone onto their side
  • have seen someone breathing but unconscious
  • have seen someone who has drunk too much alcohol
  • have heard that too much alcohol can make people vomit
  • have been on a first aid course
  • have ever fainted.

Add your own statements appropriate to the group. Use whatever emerges from discussion to help plan further activities.

Pushover role play

The idea of this activity is to work in pairs to practise the pushover. As this will involve physical contact, you’ll need to pair people judiciously to avoid any uncomfortable duos.

  • Person 1 acts as unconscious and breathing, lying on your back. Relax your muscles so that they are not tense and keeping you in position. As a test, if someone raises your hand off the floor and it stays sticking up, you are not quite relaxed yet.
  • Person 2 tilts back person 1’s head, looks at their chest to see if it is moving, listens and feels for breaths on your cheek. Now move them onto their side and tilt their head back to make sure they keep breathing. In real life you would then need to call 999 and keep an eye on the person until emergency help arrives.

Try it. Discuss it. What was easy, what was hard? Swap experiences and try out different ways and in different pairs.

Note: If you were to check and find someone is NOT breathing you would need to do something else:


Memory test

Here are two phrases to learn. The first describes the casualty. The second says what to do to help them.

  • Unconscious and breathing
  • Check for breathing, move the person onto their side and tilt their head back

Get the group to agree to learn them, support each other in their learning, test each other, and come back regularly to refresh their memories. Offer a prize for the best technique for remembering.

This might, for example, be by incorporating the words into a rap or song, or creating a poster. Call it "17 words that could save a life", or something snappier. Perhaps include the phrase these activities began with: "An unconscious friend could choke to death".


Related resources

This assembly activity is the perfect way to introduce first aid education to pupils aged 5–11 in your school

What happens when first aid goes wrong? Learn from laughter.

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