Tag Archive | Hi-Viz Effect

The Hi-Vis Effect Strikes Again

Fluorescent green vest with retroreflective strips

Image via Wikipedia (see page for Artist, etc.)

When I cycle, I wear a high-visibility waistcoat. It’s basically a piece of fluorescent yellow fabric with reflective bands that drapes over my shoulders and rucksack.
Unfortunately, it’s just as vulnerable to the hi-vis effect as my green-yoked medical hi-vis jacket.
So far, today, I’ve been asked directions in the train station (twice), asked to break up a fight (and caused a massive tut of disgust when I pointed walked the other way) and a car pulled over to be directed to the train station.
On the bright side, I also got a discount on my dinner, and waved through the train turnstile ahead of a crowd (yes, I had a ticket!).
Sometimes the effect isn’t all that bad.

All at Sea

Well, actually this was on a river, but give me some license.

I’m sitting in the First Aid Unit with NavyMan1, a couple of colleagues from my old Unit, a youth member and supervising adult from somewhere else in the county, and a local ambulance officer.

We’re all chatting about something or other, when the ambulance officer disappears to talk on his radio. He’s back in a minute and has a quick chat with my boss, who says:

“We have a job. DIB2 at ThisBar.”

My colleagues jump up, grab a kit and head off.

A minute later: “Another job. DIB again, at ThatBar.” ThatBar is just down the road from ThisBar, so they could be a duplicate call (in fact, it was), but you never know. NavyMan and I stand up, grab our gear (him a response bag, me an O2 set) and move out.

We move just that bit faster through the crowd than the first team, NavyMan forcing a way through with me following closely behind, and catch them up just as they reach ThisBar. With nobody standing outside to meet them, they head in to the building. NavyMan and I carry on to ThatBar.  Here, we find someone lounging on a table outside, who points us away from the bar, to the pontoon to our right. “They’re down there.” We turn around to see someone standing on the pontoon waving at us.

This is the point where I curse people who don’t give accurate information to call-takers. Heading back the way I’d just come, it’s my turn to force a route through the heaving throng. Few people argue with (or even notice…) a man in a hi-viz when they politely barge past (the Hi-Viz Effect for once working in my favour).

When we finally reach the patient, it’s blindingly obvious that she isn’t very well. Breathing rapidly, and clutching her chest, I ask her where the pain is. She replies that it is in her chest, jaw and arm. Oh, and the one in her chest is a crushing pain.


Without asking, NavyMan hands me the aspirin3, and a silently agree. She is displaying all the classic symptoms of a heart attack. While I instruct my patient to chew the tablet (much to her disgust4), he has a look around. There is no way we’re going to get a trolley cot down here, and a pontoon is hardly a safe place to use a carry chair. The next thing I hear is him making a priority call to Control on his radio, asking for an urgent ambulance and the boat to get her to it.

Satisfied that everything is going as well as is possible, I break out the oxygen. She suffers from COPD, so an oxygen mask is nothing new, and after a little fiddling with elastic, I have her comfortable. She starts feeling better straight away, which is gratifying, but she’s still not well by any measure.

Finally, after much to-ing and fro-ing between the sea of Hi-Viz that responded to my partner’s radio call and the harbour master, we finally get my patient on her way to the ambulance. I’m not insured to travel on the rigid-inflatable, so that’s the end of the job for me and NavyMan.

Or so I thought.

I barely get three steps from the scene before I get LittlePara (the Organisation Incident Officer of the day) debriefing me. I reel off my account of what happened, from beginning to end, and try to suppress the feeling of being second-guessed.

We finally we get back to the First Aid Unit only twenty minutes after having left. I sat down just in time, as the adrenaline chose that moment to wear off. For the next hour my hands, and my legs, wouldn’t stop shaking.


On the way home with LittlePara, I was pleased to hear that this patient was doing well in hospital. It turned out that, instead of a heart attack, the problem was an acute exacerbation of her COPD. However, LittlePara said that under the circumstances, he would have done exactly the same (had he not had his advanced paramedic skills), which made me feel better after the cross-examination early.

1 – A fellow student First Aider from another county. Who happens to be stunningly good-looking, really friendly… and straight… I sure know how to pick ’em…
2 – Oh how easily we all fall in to Death by Acronym…
3 – Standard treatment for a Heart Attack. It helps prevent the clots that cause them.
4 – Aspirin tastes disgusting, but chewing it gets it in to the bloodstream faster than swallowing it whole.

The Hi-Viz Effect

I call it the hi-viz effect. It comes in three parts:

Font of all Knowledge

Putting on the garment instantly conveys the wearer with every bit of information known to man.

Or so the general public thinks. It seems the yellow coat makes you an instant target for questions such as: where are the toilets, where’s the exit, when does this start and where am I again. Admittedly the last one is more of a concern for me, but you get the idea.

I Thought You Worked Here

The wearer of the garment is, despite any current or previous employment, instantly an unpaid employee for whatever establishment they are currently in.

A corollary of this is that the wearer also instantly becomes a police officer, doctor and paramedic, despite current and past qualifications, convictions or career choices. The number of times I’ve been approached like this… If only getting a real job was so easy.

Cloak of Invisibility

The wearer of the garment is instantly rendered completely invisible to anyone who does not require their attention.

There is a huge crowd, and somewhere in the centre someone has gone down. It’s come in as a collapse, so it could be anything from a trip, through a simple faint, all the way to a cardiac arrest. We need to get there promptly, so we can work out what support they’ll need.

Except there’s still that huge crowd. And no matter how politely (or not) we ask, people just won’t move out of our way. It takes us fifteen minutes to get on scene, along what is normally a three-minute trip…

Here’s a hint to people in such crowds: if you see someone in green and florescent yellow heading towards you, asking everyone to make way, please MAKE WAY! At the very least, don’t stare pointed over their shoulder and stay rooted to the floor…

Testing the Effect

If you want to see this for yourself, volunteer as a first aider at the busiest event you can find, ensuring it is a large area event where it is difficult to find things. Oh, and make sure you go to a supermarket or similar to get some food first, and arrive in the city by train.

Sounds like a standard big duty for me…

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