Saturday, 25 September 2010

Assembling a 1st Aid or Emergency Kit

by Kate
Living The Frugal Life

Recently I was fortunate enough to have a young man with EMT training and work experience as a guest in my home.  When I told him I was interested in putting together first aid kits for my home and car he kindly retrieved his own emergency medical kit from his car and spent about an hour going through it with me, explaining the use of each item.  I thought this would be valuable information to share with the readers here.  This is a summary of what he told me.

Look at a surplus military supply outlet for a good backpack to hold your kit.  It should have one zipper that allows the pack to open up completely and lay flat, so that you can see most or all of your supplies at a glance.  It's helpful to have small slots to hold some medical tools and supplies in place so that they don't jostle around inside.  He also liked the particular pack he carries because it can expand outward by means of "bellows" construction compartments, but the pack can also be fastened down as tightly as the contents allow by means of straps on the outside.

When he opened his pack and laid it out on the floor, one side had a mesh screen which clearly showed the contents of that half of the pack.  Here, he said, he kept the items he might need most quickly, such as:
  • a face mask (for himself), 
  • latex gloves
  • blood stopper bandages - which can either be stuffed into a large wound or rolled all the way around a torso or thigh
  • Quickclot - a powdered substance that can be poured into a large wound to clot it very quickly through chemical action.  Interestingly, he would be prohibited from using this as a working EMT, but it's legal for ordinary people to carry and use.
  • antibacterial, single use towelettes 
  • triangular bandage, which can be used as a sling, comes with safety pins, and is sometimes called a "cravat"
On the other side of his pack he carried the following:
  • saline solution in a spray tip bottle - good for flushing out wounds and many other purposes
  • triple antibiotic ointment - both a large tube and single use packets
  • a space blanket - good for hypothermia victims, but he also said it's a good emergency shelter
  • Sam splint - a splint that can be cut to fit anything from a finger to an elbow, and though flexible, will hold its shape and support a great deal of body weight
  • tampons - sterile and designed to be highly absorbent, so as good for puncture wounds as for menstruation
  • fabric tape and water proof tape - good for all kinds of bandaging and splinting
  • Ace coflex bandage - looks like the familiar tan fabric binding, but this stuff sticks to itself which is very useful when you need a lot of pressure applied constantly
  • Instant cold pack - a chemical snap pack that can provide instant cold, but only over a very short period
  • burn gel - a liquid coated bandage used as first treatment for a relatively small 2nd or 3rd degree burn
  • sterile gauze pads in various sizes
In the outer pockets of his backpack were other items, such as:
  • plastic oral pharyngeal airways, also called "artificial airways" - these come in graduated sizes and are placed all the way at the back of the mouth of an unconscious person to maintain an open airway
  • medical shears - he said they'll cut through absolutely anything a person might be wearing, critical if you need to get at a bullet wound or cut through an underwire bra to use a defibrillator
  • CPR masks - these provide a one-way barrier against infection, in favor of the person providing aid
  • tongue depressors - good for depressing tongues or improvising finger splints
  • hemostats (2) - he said the most likely scenario for him to use them would be if he were to help a woman deliver a baby
  • seat belt cutter - looks like some envelope cutters I've seen, but used to safely and quickly cut through a seat belt to remove an accident victim from a vehicle
  • window punch - used to shatter tempered glass in cars, but won't work on the windshield, only side windows, and you need to wear a glove when using one of these
  • flashlight and extra batteries
  • glucose gel - for diabetics in a coma
  • ear plugs
He also recommended a website to me as a good place to find the sorts of supplies he carries at very reasonable rates.  Although you must order from Moore Medical in bulk quantities, he said that the bulk quantities weren't huge, and in any case you'd often pay the same price for one or two bandages at a drug store as you'd pay for 100 by ordering through the website.   It seems to me that since I want three separate kits anyway, buying in bulk isn't so very unreasonable.  If I can find even one other family who wants one kit for their home and two for their vehicles, that's a six-way split for any items purchased in bulk.

Taking a first aid class and putting together first aid kits has been on my goal list since the beginning of this year. Although I have yet to schedule my husband and myself for Red Cross classes, I now feel that I can at least get started with putting together some basic supplies.  And perhaps paying attention to such hope-we-never-need-it stuff will encourage me to find a class at a time convenient to both of us.  

Do you have first aid or emergency kits in your home or vehicle?  If you do and you include any items not listed here, please share in the comments.