Prepping for a global disaster typically involves identifying and securing key resources that will aid you in a post-apocalyptic world. While this can be challenging enough, you must also be certain that you are qualified and competent to operate the equipment you obtain — there’s no use having it if you can’t use it. When it comes to administering first aid, having the right equipment is only a fraction of the task at hand.
As well as having a comprehensive first aid kit, you must also be confident enough to use the equipment inside the kit, which can be a lot more complicated than it seems. Remember that there’s a strong chance you will have zero access to medical assistance after a global disaster, and so you should be prepared for any eventuality; whether that’s a simple abrasion, a broken leg, or a fractured skull. Looking after you and your family is, after all, the fundamental philosophy of being a prepper, so take heed of our guidance in this helpful guide to first aid.
A comprehensive first aid kit
First aid supplies should be a priority for any prepper, and you should consider storing a first aid kit both inside your safe haven, your bug out bag and your vehicle. You never know when disaster will strike, and so you should plan for any eventuality. It is recommended that you begin building your first aid kit by purchasing a comprehensive pre-packed kit. These kits will usually contain everything you need at a pinch, with the onus on yourself to complete the kit with any particular medication or equipment that you specifically require.
Our Lifesaver Advanced First Aid Kit provides a great base for you to begin building your first aid pack upon, and contains the essential bandages and dressings for treating impact injuries. It also contains an instruction leaflet, which explains how to use and apply the enclosed equipment; we recommend you read this ahead of time so you are fully prepared. While this will serve you well in treating the majority of small-to-medium injuries, you will need to undertake further first aid training to understand what to do in more serious scenarios.
Initial actions – summarising the injury
If the cause of injury is unclear, stumbling upon an unconscious body can be a confusing and stressful situation. Without being fully qualified in emergency medical response, it can sometimes prove impossible to make an accurate assessment of the injury. However, there are basic actions you can take to not only determine the best treatment in the circumstances, but also ensure your own safety in a potentially dangerous situation.
Survey the area
There’s a chance that the injury may have occurred due to a dangerous environment. Survey the land around the injured and try to identify any hazards, including unstable terrain, wild animals, or jagged and protruding objects/plants/trees.
Assess and engage the injured
Make a visual assessment of the injury sustained, whether that includes wounds, broken bones, or something else. Try to make physical contact with the injured and ask them if they are okay. They may be in a semi-conscious state and so you should communicate with them loudly and clearly. If they do not respond, check their pulse and whether they are breathing.
Check the heart and lungs
Remember that ultimately a person only ever dies in two ways; either their heart stops beating, or they stop breathing. If there are signs of either of these problems, then you need to take immediate action. While the usual response would be to contact emergency services and leave CPR to the professionally trained, this is not a realistic option in a post-cataclysm society, and so you must take ownership of the situation.
If you cannot feel a pulse, try hands-only CPR. This involves chest compression in an attempt to restart the heart. The below video from the British Heart Foundation demonstrates the easiest way to perform CPR in an emergency situation. If they have stopped breathing, check their airways before attempting to give rescue breaths — raise their chin and tilt their head back, pinching their nose to ensure the breath travels down to the lungs. The chest should rise after two rescue breaths.
Though wounds may not seem as urgent as cardiac or respiratory problems, you must take steps to prevent blood loss and infection. If possible, raise the wounded area above the heart; this will slow the blood flow and, in turn, the blood loss.
Treating body wounds
Apply direct pressure to the wound unless there is a compound fracture, in which the wound should be treated differently. The priority should be first to control the bleeding using gauze, and then to sterilise the area. Your first aid kit should contain alcohol or disinfectant wipes, so make use of these before dressing the wound.
Treating head wounds
You must take extra care when treating head injuries, as there is a chance that the skull may be fractured. Check if there are visible bone fragments and take care to avoid them if so. Apply very gentle pressure to stem the blood loss, just as you would a regular wound, and attempt to clean the area before dressing.
Aside from compound fractures, where the bone protrudes from the skin, bone injuries can be difficult to spot. Even if you do recognise the signs, it is still difficult to distinguish between a broken bone, a sprain, a fracture, and a dislocation. Luckily, the treatment for each of these is quite similar, and so you can minimise damage by taking basic measures.
Indications of a bone injury
Clear signs of a bone injury include swelling, bruising, tenderness, a deformity, or intense pain around the area. Loss of sensation is also a sign of a bone injury, and so a lack of feeling in a limb is potentially just as hazardous or dangerous as searing pain.
Treating a bone injury
The injured part of the body should be immediately rested, or placed in a survival splint if the person needs to be moved. If possible, wrap the area in a cold, wet bandage and apply an ice pack to the area. If possible, attempt to elevate the injured area above the heart to reduce blood flow, and subsequently the swelling. Take steps to prevent any weight from being placed on the injured limb; try using a crutch or a sling.
While the information provided here will at least prepare you for basic emergency response treatment, you should undertake further reading to learn about more complex first aid. The St John Ambulance First Aid Manual is the UK’s only fully authorised first aid guide, and owning a copy is essential in a world without emergency services.