In most wars, more people die from disease and infection than from combat wounds. The ability to provide immediate first aid to family members and guests can mean the difference between an interesting story to tell the grandchildren and a disaster that ends with a shovel and a bouquet of flowers.
You cannot count on emergency medical personnel to always be available — or to respond in a timely manner. In the event of a real disaster, your “emergency” could be put on hold for days while first responders are dealing with other wounded. It is the responsibility of each individual and each family to provide for as much of their own medical care as possible. It is the smart thing to do and it is the moral thing to do. In a large scale emergency situation, you do not want to become an unnecessary burden to already overworked emergency health care professionals.
To prepare for a first aid event, you will need training and equipment. I will discuss first aid training in a separate article. In this article, I will focus on first aid kits.
You should have one first aid kit for each of your homes, and one for each of your vehicles. A decent first aid kit doesn’t require a lot of space in a car trunk or strapped to an ATV and it is far better to be able to clean a wound immediately than after the few hours it may take to get to an emergency room.
The best first aid kit is one you put together yourself, selecting each component after careful study. Few of us, however, have the time or the training to do this properly. For most of us, the best path is to purchase an off-the-shelf first-aid kit and customize is as necessary.
My own primary first aid kit is the Wilderness Medical Kilimanjaro. This kit has almost everything you’ll want in a standard first aid kit. I’ve enhanced mine with a good supply of QuikClot and I’d feel better with an IV kit and a few bottles of saline drip. Whatever you buy, make sure you include an airway kit sized for every member of the family. Broken bones are unpleasant, but airway problems are killers. In addition, make sure that your kit contains all the over-the-counter and prescription medications you will need in an emergency situation. For example, the Kilimanjaro came with 72 packets of acetaminophen, but no aspirin. Only aspirin seems to work for my headaches, so I make sure that it’s included in our kit. I have nasal problems, so my kit also includes a good amount of pseudoephedrine.
If you buy a pre-made kit, the first thing to do is to take it apart. Take everything out and don’t put anything back until you know what it does and how to use it. You won’t be able to practice with every item — the skin stapler for example — but you should know what it looks like and how to use it when the time comes. The world’s best first aid kit won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use it.