A Lesson in Preparedness: First-Aid Kits

Posted by Nate on

Compared to what many people in the world face, most of us live in a society where due to our relative ease and prosperity it’s easy to fall into a routine and get bogged down by the daily grind.  We forget to smell the proverbial roses and take for granted our prospects for the future.  The reality is we live in a very uncertain world and a few years ago I had the chilling realization that tomorrow is promised to no one.

Early one morning my roomate and I were headed home from a friend’s house out of town.  Even though it was about 2 AM, it didn’t feel like it had cooled off much from the 100°+ high of the previous day.  Road conditions were normal and we were on a stretch of freeway that most people navigate easily.  That morning as we merged from an offramp and onto another highway, my headlights caught a plume of dust and smoke was just starting to settle and through it, I could make out the shape of a vehicle that had been crushed flat like a pancake.  It turned out to be a large SUV which made the condition of it’s flattened steel frame all the more shocking.  Moments earlier the driver, a young man about my age, had failed to negotiate the turn, slammed into a barrier and flipped the SUV multiple times, being ejected 50-60 feet from his vehicle and landing on a dirt enbankment.  We were the second vehicle to stop and as I ran to the victim’s side it was clear that his situation was serious.   A small crowd started to gather and looked on as I cleared his airway and did what I could to keep him alive until help could arrive.  Even though we were in a metropolitan area with adequate emergency services, medics didn’t arrive fast enough and the man passed away.

Looking back I’ve realized that even with the best help, his injuries were severe enough that there probably wasn’t much anyone could have done to save him.  The whole experience was rather surreal but it highlighted the importance of having a well-stocked first-aid kit in my car and the fact that even though it’s not my job, I might at some point come face to face with a situation where I would need to use it.  A year or so later while driving out of state, my brother and I came upon another rollover and we were able to use my kit to help some of the injured passengers.  Fortunately, this time the story had a much happier ending.

In an ideal world medical services would never be more than minutes away, but sometimes help is hours or even days away.  Othertimes, even if we do have access to help immediately some injuries aren’t serious enough to require specialized medical attention.

A first-aid kit can provide you with the tools and first-aid supplies you need to handle medical emergencies.  Comercial first-aid kits can range from bear-necessity items to trauma-level, military grade first aid kits.  Rather than buying a kit and stashing it away without giving it any further thought, it may make sense to create your own personalized first-aid kit to have in your home, your car, or in your Bug Out Bag.  When creating your first-aid kit checklist, recommendations from the Red Cross make a good place to start:

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of asprin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket (space blanket)
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile guaze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile guaze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

It's worth making mention of the last item.  An instruction booklet is certainly worth having and studying, but it shouldn’t take the place of practical training.  In an emergency scenario the last thing you need to be doing is trying to figure out what to do and how to do it when wasted seconds can mean the difference between life and death.  Formal first-aid training from the Red Cross, your local community college, or fire station, etc. will put you in a much better place to respond effectively when you need to.  As I’ve learned, today may not have all the answers for tomorrow’s questions, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start preparing to answer them now.

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