In first aid, the secondary survey is the fourth step in the Red Cross' Emergency Action Principles. It follows the scene survey, checking the casualty and activating EMS if necessary, and the primary survey. The goal of the secondary survey is to identify and treat all problems not identified during the primary survey and to obtain the casualty's history. Ideally all problems discovered in the secondary should not be life threatening since life-threatening issues should be treated in the primary. The secondary survey generally consists of the following steps:
SAMPLE history: Interviewing the casualty (if conscious) and bystanders. Obtaining relevant information about the incident and the casualty.
Head-to-toe examination: Examining the casualty's body for any signs of injury (bleeding, Battle's signs, bruising, swelling, etc.) as well as checking for Medical Alert bracelets. This is especially important if the casualty is unconscious.
Assessing and documenting vital signs: Checking pulse, level of consciousness, blood pressure, skin colour, respiration rate, etc. and documenting them.
During the secondary survey, it is important for the responder to document as much as possible, especially if the casualty is drifting in and out of consciousness or EMS is on its way. Any information found (especially medications and allergies) could be vital to paramedics and will likely be unattainable if the casualty goes unconscious. Also doing an effective secondary survey (especially taking an documenting sets of vital signs) can help to prove that the responder provided good care in a court of law.
Source: Canadian Red Cross, First Responder Manual: Second Edition.