IN HER weekend job as a nurse in the intensive care unit of a private hospital, Lucy Clarke has seen her belief confirmed time and time again. Everyone, irrespective of age, background or level of education, should learn first aid. Because, she warns, everyone will need to use it at some point in their lives. Clarke practises what she preaches. Since this summer, she has taught close to 300 people how to give emergency treatment, structuring her classes according to their needs: for the school, office, home, factory and playing field. Clarke realised there was a need for such first aid courses and kits soon after she arrived five years ago. As a professional sailor, she was the one her crew mates turned to for first aid kits specifically created for boats when they couldn't find anything locally. Demand grew not just for emergency supplies that might be needed while on the water but also for homes and industries, so Clarke set up her company, Fast-Aid, in 1993. She now also represents the US-based International Safety Council in Hong Kong. Working with a team of trained staff, she compiles wall-mountable boxes filled with supplies relevant to the need. There are basic dressings and anti-seasickness pills for pleasure vessels that seldom venture beyond local waters; and for potentially more urgent situations there is equipment you would find in a small surgery. Among Clarke's most popular kits is one designed for travellers to developing countries: this includes sterile syringes and infusion equipment which can be used by doctors in foreign hospitals for additional hygiene, or basic boxes of medicine for diarrhoea, travel sickness and pain. Manuals come in English, Chinese and Tagalog (versions in Japanese and Thai are also underway) and include a page of emergency phone numbers followed by basic, life-saving information. At a glance, they cover such topics as how to help handle heavy bleeding, eye injuries, asthma attacks and poisoning. The advice is written simply and is accompanied by illustrations. But learning how to apply the treatments properly through a course can make all the difference between sheer panic and calm competence when faced with a crisis. 'Up to the age of 24, an accident represents the highest chance of death, and for the rest of your life, accidents are still very high-risk,' she said. She believes that the level of help a bystander can give to someone who is choking or has been hit by a car or fallen down badly, should never be underestimated. In a recent case, a rugby player who hurt himself seriously on the field was saved from almost-certain paralysis by a team mate who knew not to move him. 'If people know what to do at the right time, serious injuries can be lessened and hospital stays can be shortened. In many cases, lives can be saved, even by the most basic techniques like learning how to open the airway of someone who has collapsed,' she said. 'Learning first aid gives people the confidence to act, to do something. Otherwise, they're too scared to try.' Her courses are tailor-made: a basic First Aid At Home course runs for nine hours over three sessions and includes training on how to assess an injury, treating fainting spells or shock, burns, seizures, fractures and heat stroke, as well as the fundamentals of life support and CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation). Staff of a number of Lan Kwai Fong restaurants have received First Aid training, and Clarke's team has also conducted courses for employees of large corporations. Another popular course is for mothers and their helpers. 'We all hope an accident doesn't happen, but if it does, we can be prepared. Sometimes the most simple first-aid measure can save a life.