This is a guest post from Will Kone, aka BusyPoorDad, whose bio appears at the end of the column. Though he is busy indeed, he has huge expertise in the areas of first aid and emergency management. He has agreed to write a series of articles on those and related topics. These will appear irregularly, as he has time and gets the inspiration to write them. BTW, I will be returning to the topic of water storage; just not sure when. Will’s post on what to have in a first-aid kit will appear later this week.
Where to learn first aid
The world is coming to an end! Now is the time to stand up and use all those supplies you have been hoarding for the last few decades. You grab that super-duper special forces field medical kit you paid several hundred dollars for, open it up and…holy fetch! what are half of these things and how do you use them? The guy on the ground before you has a cut on his leg, do you need that “QuickClot” pack? Or a tourniquet? Or a band aid? At that point, this is not the time to be opening up the Special Forces Emergency Medical guide.
It gets said over and over, all the tools in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t know how to use them. The most important tool is your brain. Knowledge is power. Go-Joe!
But even though it gets said over and over, this is because people don’t remember it. Jack Spirko tells of a buddy of his that bought some high-speed field medical kit, he then asked his buddy, “You failed high school biology, what makes you think you can use this in an emergency?” We see this all the time. The guy who bought those twelve AR-15’s with all the add-ons and 5,000 rounds of ammo they lock up and never shoot. Or buys the solar oven but has never cooked a meal with out punching buttons on a microwave.
As with all efforts on prepping, you will start as a “noob” at some point. No one is born knowing how to give medical aid in an emergency. Accept that. Recognize that. Don’t feel weak or foolish about not knowing. In the EMS world there is “that guy” who knows everything yet has not taken any more training than First Responder. (we call him “Larry the First Responder”) Larry won’t admit to doing anything wrong or not knowing something. As you can bet, Larry hurts more than he helps. Don’t be Larry.
Before you spend your money on anything, you should make sure of two things. First, that you know how to use it. Second, that you need it more than something else.
Basic first aid is something you should learn, just like reading, writing, and swimming. I have responded to many 911 calls that we’re much worse because the caller or bystander did nothing. Before you learn how to insert an nasal pharyngeal air way, you should know how to treat a nose bleed.
First aid is the application of medical help to another person, immediately. It is the foundation of Emergency Response. This is something even small kids can do. So if you’re smarter than a fourth grader, you can, too.
The basic things you should be aware of, and know very well, are:
- How to stop someone from choking
- How to stop bleeding
- How to breathe for someone
- And how to stabilize an injury.
Being able to know when and how to do CPR, the signs of a stroke, recognizing and treating shock, and general illness care all build on the basic minimum for First Aid. Having a collection of trauma dressings and sucking chest wound patches won’t fix a person with a hot dog stuck in their throat.
To often people want to know how to do the exciting treatment they see on TV or read about. Yes, it is impressive to treat a tension pneumothorax with needle decompression. But you’re more likely to run across a small child choking on food or a toy. Believe me, the adrenaline rush is the same. Keep in mind how you would feel if you knew how to decompress a lung but could not find a pressure point to stop your best friend from bleeding. Sort of like the rocket scientist that can’t work a shower faucet.
This training is often low cost or even free. The classic places to get this training are the YMCA, the Red Cross, and the Boy Scouts. Often they will run classes in conjunction with a CPR program. Considering that more people die from sudden cardiac events than from traumatic injury, taking this training is a good foundation to create.
If you live in a big city you are going to have an easier time finding classes already scheduled. It’s is true with most things. Call your local Red Cross or YMCA. (Look in the Yellow Pages.) You also may find your local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is also running classes as part of their mission to prepare the community for disaster response. Sometimes there are groups that run classes because of that “is there” thing. Many of these groups will happily run a class at your location if you get enough others to join you. (I’ve been in groups as small as three).
Since we who are into “prepping” are very aware that the more others are ready for a disaster, the less likely they will be to try to mooch off us, we tend to build communities. We join churches, rod and gun clubs, CSA’s, fraternal organizations, knitting and reloading societies, and such. No one is going to think you’re nuts for asking if people would like to learn first aid and CPR. Often the group has a place the training can happen, and it is already a place the members are comfortable in.
In the rural areas, you don’t have as many resources, but you make up for it with longer distances to the hospital. Even more reason to learn the basics. Here the local community is the more willing to help you. You likely have a volunteer fire and rescue department, a great source of training directly with the same people who will show up when you call for help. By training you, their job gets easier. The Red Cross has branches in most counties in the US, and your county likely has a CERT also. (Note from Claire: Even my area, with a total population of less than 5,000, has an active local Red Cross.)
The rural public library is a source also, they are often presenting programs to fill the needs of the community that big cities leave to others. The rural library becomes the elder care resource center, the youth center, community help center, and internet hub. If they don’t offer classes, they might put one together if you ask. The local churches also may offer training or have someone who teaches it to the Boy Scouts for their merit badges. Being nice with your neighbors pays off with this.
There are online programs and books you can use. Depending on how well you do with retaining knowledge from reading these can get you the basics. But having an instructor on hand to give you feedback and correct mistakes is hard to overrate. That Special Forces Medical Manual is nice,* but do you think an SF medic runs over to a wounded soldier and opens the manual to follow the instructions? No, he has practiced over and over. He may still look up things, but he has had lots of hands on training with people there to help make sure he is doing it right.
The main reason people have told me they did nothing to help someone was they did not know what to do and did not want to make things worse. The fear that they would do the wrong thing, even though the right thing seems intuitive, paralyzes them. They stand there and watch the other person and hope rescue comes soon. Having that wizz-bang medi-kit you have never used or know how to use can put you in the same state.
* (Added by Claire: Also handy are the The American Red Cross First Aid and Safety Handbook and American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care.)
“Who am I? Why am I here?” The immortal words of admiral Stockdale are best answered like this: I’m William V Kone, a First Sergeant, Paramedic, Emergency Manager, and a “Busy Poor Dad.” I’m 23 years into the Army Reserves, currently the interim Company Commander of an HHC for an Engineer Battalion. I work for an Ambulance Company and have been with EMS since 1997, and with Fire Service since 1996. I have been with rural districts in upstate New York, a Suburban district in Maryland, and currently work the City of Cleveland and Cleveland Metro area. I also work with the Emergency Management Agency in the small city I live in, have a BSc in Emergency Management and Homeland Security, level 1 Continuity Of Operations Planning certification, and am working towards my CEM.
But most important, I’m the father of three and the loving husband of the world’s greatest lady.