Step 5: Medical

The ability to provide basic first aid can save the life of your family.  Although we may not have the medical training to replace emergency services, we should still be prepared with the right supplies to treat simple potentially life threatening conditions.  A typical first aid kit is capable of treating superficial injuries and will contain basic bandages and antiseptics.  These first aid kits were never designed to replace Emergency Medical Services. During a state of disaster emergency services may be significantly delayed, if they are able to arrive at all.  If the cellular network is damaged and/or overwhelmed you may even lose the ability to call for help.  In either case you must become your own first responder.  With the proper supplies, resources and basic training you may be able to preserve a life or limb of a family member or friend. Potential medical threats can come in many different categories.

  1. Physical Trauma – This category covers very common injuries caused during the actually critical event, the post event cleanup and violent physical confrontations.  This category will cover traumatic injuries to bones, joints and skin (bruises, broken bones, sprained ankles, dislocations, small cuts and scrapes, lacerations, puncture wombs and arterial bleeding).  Because these injuries typical involve bleeding and can be disfiguring, a timely response is critical, as a person can bleed out in less than a minute.  Our goal is to first, stop the bleeding, then to clean and protect the womb from potentially deadly infections.
  2. Intestinal Distress – Contaminated food and drinking water contains millions of bacteria and microorganisms.  The organisms will create incredible intestinal distress, often causing vomiting and/or diarrhea.  Untreated this condition will lead to dehydration which can become fatal.
  3. Infections – Old and new injuries can easily become a portal for infections to enter our bodies, especially as sanitation becomes less idyllic.  Infections can stay localized at the injury, however some will become systemic.  Expect to treat fevers and flu like symptoms. 
  4. Nuclear/Biological/Chemical/Radiological – With the abundance of nuclear material throughout the world, not to mention the 65 nuclear power reactions throughout the United States, we have to be prepared for the possibility for a radiological disaster.  Potassium Iodide tablets can protect you from some types of contamination, however knowing general decontamination procedures can help to keep your home safe from contaminations.  These cleanliness/decontamination processes will also become invaluable during any natural or terrorist biological threat. 
  5. Cold/Flu/Viral/Pandemic – After a disaster substandard sanitation will become prevalent throughout the community.  As such, illnesses, like the flu, will spread like wildfire.  In such cases as a pandemic, where an infectious disease spreads amongst the human population, your ability to sanitize and disinfect can help to keep your family safe.  Be prepared with the supplies and processes necessary to, not only protect yourself from infectious diseases, but isolate and treat your family members who might be infected.  

Our medical preparedness should focus on, not only the medical supplies needed to treat these conditions, but the sanitation methods needed to maintain a healthy environment.  Your goal is to acquire many the instruments and supplies that would be found in an ambulance or even the local emergency room.  It’s understandable that you may feel uncomfortable using a medical stapler or sutures to close a laceration, but your discomfort does not outweigh the need to be proactive in preventing serious infections.  Some routine infections will become fatal without a professional medical environment, despite your vast preparations; therefore, we must be proactive in treatment and infection prevention.

It is quite possible that a doctor, nurse, or EMT lives in your community.  These individuals may have the knowledge needed to expertly use some of the instruments in your first aid kit.  Plan your first aid kit from the perspective from what a medical expert might need, and not what your limited knowledge allows you to do.

The time for training is long before anything was to happen. You will want to acquire field medical manuals and basic first aid skills, especially CPR training.  Gaining a more advanced knowledge of emergency medical treatments will greatly reduce your feelings of helplessness, empowering you to thrive in a critical situation.