Disaster First Aid: Prepping for a Medical Emergency

disaster first aidOne of the most important survival skills you can have is first aid. If you do not know how to handle the most basic, not to mention the more serious, medical emergencies, you will not be of much help to those around you in a disaster situation. Accidents happen on a daily basis. The risks increase when dealing with unknown and potentially dangerous circumstances. Here are some basic first aid tips and pointers to add to your emergency preparedness arsenal.

Proper Steps for Dealing with an Emergency Medical Situation

  • Check your surroundings for dangers such as down power lines or traffic.
  • Call for help if possible.
  • Care for the injured while you wait.
  • Remember your ABCs when helping the injured. (Is he/she Awake? Breathing? Continue Care until help arrives or the emergency is under control.)

Common Emergency Medical Situations

Bleeding – Clean and cover the wound and apply pressure. If you do not suspect broken bones, elevate the area above the heart. If the bleeding continues, apply more bandages and use a pressure point to squeeze the artery as much as possible.

Shock – With any injury, there is a risk for shock. Keep the person from getting too cold or too hot. If broken bones are not an issue, elevate the legs 12 inches. Monitor the victim for low blood pressure and confusion.

Burns – In addition to the pain that comes with burns, there is also a big risk for infection. Rinse the wound with a large amount of clean water. Cover the area with clean bandages.

Bone, Joint and Muscle Injuries – A cold pack should be applied to the area to reduce pain and swelling. Immobilize the area as much as possible and avoid movement or weight if it causes pain.
Poisoning – Different substances should be dealt with in different ways. If possible, call Poison Control (800-222-1222).

CPR – If a victim is not breathing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be started immediately. This includes both chest compressions and rescue breathing. CPR instructions are different for adults, infants and children. Now, before an emergency arises, is the time to take a CPR class. The American Red Cross and the American Heart Association both offer CPR classes to the public. In many classes you can also learn other skills necessary for first aid.

Protect Yourself – Use rubber gloves and masks when treating others. Avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids. Wash your hands immediately after.

Construct a First Aid Kit

It is imperative that you have a well-stocked first aid kit available. These kits are good to not only keep in your home, but also in your car and bug out bag. An adequate first aid kit should include:

  • Medical tape
  • Latex gloves
  • Sterile gauze pads (medium and large sizes. These can be cut down to size.)
  • Extra-large adhesive bandages
  • Diapers or sanitary napkins (these make great dressings for large injuries)
  • Rolled gauze
  • Slings
  • Cotton swabs
  • Tongue depressors
  • Safety pins
  • Betadine scrub
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Sterile water for rinsing wounds
  • Plastic bags
  • Thermal blankets
  • Bandage scissors
  • Pocket knife
  • Medications (prescribed in addition to over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-diarrheal medicines)


No first aid kit is complete without a comprehensive manual. The American Medical Association Handbook of First Aid and Emergency Care is one of the best on the market and it is fully illustrated.

What disaster first aid tips would you add?

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