Monday, December 17, 2007

Emergency Preparation: First Aid kits

Injuries Can Be Emergencies and Disasters
It is worthwhile considering (unpleasant though it may be) to consider what might happen, in terms of possible injuries, during a disaster. Some are obviously worse than others, but all should be thought through when preparing:
• Lacerations–breaks in the skin, minor or severe, which pose a risk of infection, and/or in some cases serious bleeding.
• Fractures (broken bones).
• Sprains–injured and painful tendons which can limit mobility.
• Burns–usually from fire, electrical, or chemical injury–although severe cold (frostbite) is similar in many ways.
• Temperature-related dangers–hypothermia, heat prostration &etc.
• Infection–usually a risk from other injuries, although contaminated food and water are a risk as well.
• Heart-attacks caused by stress.
• Births caused by stress.

First Aid kits contain things you know how to use to help someone who has been injured. Sadly, most of the kits found in stores today are little more then an assortment of bandages.

What do you know how to do?
The most important thing you need for building any kind of kit is knowledge and training. It doesn't matter what you have in the kit if you don't know how to use it. Take a class, read a book do something to learn more about how to help someone in trouble. Check out for more on classes.

What injuries do you expect to encounter?
The second most important thing in building a kit is expectations. The things you put in your kit will depend on what it is you expect to be taking care of, it also depends on if this is an individual kit, a kit that stays in the car/office or one at home. A family with five active boys has different needs then one for an apartment of female college students, a kit for an office is different for one for hiking the backcountry.

Two levels of Kits:
• Handy Kit
A handy kit is a small kit that you can carry with you all the time or have in the glovebox of the car or in your desk at work. You can deal with a few small injuries and maybe a medium injury.
• Home Kit
No one ever thinks about a year's supply of bandages and such but this can be lifesaving in a major disaster to help treat many injured people or helping a few people heal over the long term.

The Handy Kit
• CPR mask
• Cell phone: this can be an old one with a working battery, 911 calls are always allowed.
• Band-aids various sizes
• Butterfly bandages
• 4x4 gauze pads
• 1" or 2" bandage tape to secure gauze or a sprain.
• Betadine/Bactine for cleaning wounds.
• Neosporin/bacitracin for scrapes.
• Alcohol wipes/Hand sanitizer for cleaning equipment.
• Nitrile / Vinyl / Latex gloves for protecting yourself or marking a place.
• LED flashlight/headlight + extra batteries.
• Bandage scissors/trauma shears.
• Red bandanas to make slings or hold dressings in place or signaling device.
• Glucagel or tube of writing frosting (not blue) to help someone in diabetic distress.
• Water purification tablets to purify water to clean wounds or a box/pouch of water.
• Aspirin or your favorite pain-reliever in 2 tablet packages.
• Antihistamine (like Benadryl) in 2 tablet packages to deal with mild allergic reactions.
• Splint Material: SAM splint, carpenters ruler, magazine, or cardboard.
• Instant Hot and Instant Cold compresses.
• Moleskin for blisters.
• Pen and paper to write down what is happening and whatever instructions you get from 911.
• Permanent marker to write on people or things what you've done to them.
• Feminine Hygiene pads to stop blood loss.
• Space/emergency blanket to stay warm, treat for shock

The Home Kit
Mainly you will need a lot more of what you have in the Handy Kit.
• Box(es) of latex gloves or equivalent.
• Large supplies of pain reliever and antihistamine.
• Lots of band-aids and gauze pads.
• Rolls of Ace bandages and bandage tape.
• A few Instant Hot and Instant Cold compresses
There are also many things you can keep in a home kit that are impractical to keep in the car for most people.
• Medical books, knowledge is the most powerful tool of all.
• Several reusable gel hot/cold compresses.
• A thermometer or two.
• An otoscope for looking in ears and noses and such.
• Heating pad.
• Humidifier.
• Splinting material.
• Blood pressure kit.
• LED flashlights/headlights + extra batteries
• Tweezers for splinter removal.
• Feminine Hygiene supplies (useful for stopping blood loss)
• Bulb syringe to clear a newborns nose or cleanse a wound with sterile water
• Cotton shoe string to fix shoes, tie off a babies umbilical cord or tie back your hair.
• Towels to cover people in shock, to warm a baby, to stop blood loss.
• Eye glass repair kit
• Soap
• Sterile Water/Saline to clean contact lenses and wounds.
• Sun screen

The Vial of Life
The Vial of Life is a nationwide program. All USA EMTs are trained to look for one. Where they expect to find it: In your refrigerator.

What it is: an info sheet for your friendly local EMTs to use if they come to your house and find you lying on the floor, unable to answer questions about what your medical conditions are, what medications you’re on, what your allergies are, your DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) status, your date of birth, doctor’s address and phone number, and other Helpful Information. A recent photo wouldn’t be a bad idea so we can be sure that the information we’re working from matches the unconscious body on the floor. (Even if you live alone, maybe there’s a guest over. It’s nice to be sure.) Insurance numbers and the usual stuff they’d ask at the hospital at the registration desk if you were capable of answering questions goes on the form too: It’s coming with you.

The big things that need to be there are your name and date of birth (since they can’t start the paperwork without them), your allergies (so they won’t accidentally kill you), and your medical history (since most people come down with HIBGIA: Had It Before, Got It Again). Please write down your medications, please spell them right, and please write neatly. If you don’t speak English they need to know what language to try instead. Typing is a big plus.
For more information go to: and 8026080888008808080808

For a free copy of Where There Is No Doctor and other free medical and health books go to
For Wilderness Medicine

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