The 911 system is one of the most important advents in modern times for its ability to get help to the injured. Depending on your location and the size of your municipality, help can be just a few minutes away. However, those in rural areas or those who choose to explore the backcountry may be looking at exponentially longer response times. Factor into that the possibility that you may not be able to call 911 immediately and you are looking at a truly dangerous problem.
Police officers can experience a unique version of delayed medical res- cue. If they are involved in police action and are injured in the event, medical rescue will not be allowed into the area until it has been deemed safe to do so. This could leave officers and injured civilians without medical attention. This scenario is not hypothetical. Several recent events have left officers and civil- ians to fend for themselves as rescue teams were held back for their own safety. The byproduct of these events has been a push for training in self-care. The fundamentals are simple and should be known by everyone.
The biggest issue we face when seri- ously injured is blood loss. The average adult has 5 liters of blood in their body, or about 10 to 12 pints. When you donate blood, you give up one pint per visit. That blood can be replaced in the body over the period of one to two days. With A loss of 40 percent, or 4 pints, usually results in death. The pace at which blood is lost depends on the severity of the injury and where the wound is located. Injuries to high-risk areas of the body can result in a person bleeding out in three to five minutes. Time is a critical factor, especially when self-care is required. As blood loss continues, disorientation can set in. Confusion and weakness can greatly impede your ability to respond. The solution is to act, and act quickly!
It is highly recommended that you keep a self-aid kit in a handy and easy-to-carry pouch. While there are many companies that offer general kits, one stands out above the rest. Dark Angel Medical is a one-stop shop in the acquisition of real- world first-aid and self-care kits. It is a veteran-owned business with a com- bined total of over 20 years of medical training. Dark Angel provides a variety of kits as well as world-class training.
The most important thing you can do if you have an injury is to manage the bleeding. Pressure must be applied to the wound in order to slow and/or stop blood loss. This can be done in several ways. The most field-expedient method is to use any available cloth material and pack it on the wound. Once in place, pressure must be applied on top of the injury to help reduce blood flow. Elevating the injured area (if possible) above the heart can also help slow blood loss. A more effective tool is a dedicated compression bandage, such as the emergency bandage (aka an “Israeli bandage”) from First Care. This is a special bandage that can be applied by one person. It allows the wound to be covered with a sterile bandage while including a special compression mechanism.
For those who prepare and carry a self-aid kit, hemostatic agents should be included. A game-changer in treating serious wounds, these agents generally come in the form of a treated gauze pad. The pad is removed from the packaging and applied directly to the open wound. Earlier versions of this came in a pow- dered form but were difficult to use. The chemical agents in the bandage react with the blood and essentially a seal is created. Compression of the wound is still essential, but the effectiveness of these items is astounding. One of the most popular on the market is Celox. Available to military, law enforcement and civilians alike, it is a must for any serious first-aid kit. Once in the hands of medical professionals, the agent can be cleared from the wound, allowing them to deal with the injury.
One last critical piece of equipment that can save your life is the Combat Application Tourniquet, or CAT. The CAT is a small, lightweight, one-handed tourniquet that completely occludes arterial blood flow in an extremity.
The CAT uses a self-adhering band, a friction adaptor buckle to fit a wide range of extremities and a one-handed windlass system. The windlass uses a free-moving internal band to provide true circumferential pressure to an extremity. The windlass is then locked in place. This process requires only one hand to perform thanks to the windlass clip. The CAT can be self-applied and managed to minimize damage to sur- rounding tissue.
Just as popular is the RATS, or Rapid Application Tourniquet System. The RATS is an easy-to-use system developed by a medic with extensive training. Essentially a 1.5-inch bungee with a metal cleat, it works extremely well at slowing or stopping blood loss in the extremities. Its simplicity allows the RATS to be used by anyone regard- less of background. Light weight, incredibly affordable and quick to use, it is a winner.
Other important items to include in an emergency first-aid kit are trauma shears to cut away clothing, rolled gauze to cover injured areas, and non-latex gloves in the event you need to treat others. Self-care is a skill that serious people recognize as essential. It is fostered by a sense of pure reality. When something bad happens, your survival may be completely up to you and your own actions. While daunting to some, the best thing you can do is prepare. Get a self-care kit and learn how to use it. Prepare yourself through training and the development of an invincible attitude. If the day comes that you find yourself in trouble, then face it with grim determination knowing that you are prepared to survive!
This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.