Imagine being alone with a loved one who is seriously injured and having no way to call an ambulance. Would you know what to do to help them? Many of us worry about how we would handle an emergency if a 911 response was not available. We can protect ourselves with firearms in case of a criminal attack, but what about a medical emergency? You may have taken a basic CPR class and keep a first aid kit on hand, but more advanced training is available for those interested in emergency preparedness.

Such training may be of particular interest to those whose hobbies or travels regularly take them away from easy access to medical care: those who hike or hunt in remote areas, who participate in extreme sports or who travel to developing countries. And, of course, there are plenty of us living in areas at risk of tornadoes, earthquakes, floods or hurricanes. If any of the above situations apply to you, you would be well served to consider Greg Ellifritz’s course, Tactical First Aid and “System Collapse” Medicine, offered through Active Response Training.

Tactical First Aid & System Collapse

system collapse medicine, training, first aid
The System Collapse Medicine class helps students prepare mentally for emergencies.

The course covers two general scenarios: tactical injuries that must be managed until help arrives, and “system collapse” care for when there is no one coming to help. The tactical first aid section essentially teaches battlefield medical techniques, and it follows the military’s latest “Tactical Combat Casualty Care III” protocols. Students learn how to stop bleeding, set fractures, immobilize spinal injuries and even treat collapsed lungs and sucking chest wounds.

This is an extensive, hands-on one- or two-day course, and you may get high school biology class flashbacks with some of the items used. Ellifritz has students practice and train using pig tracheas as models for practicing surgical airway access in cases where someone’s windpipe is blocked. This type of training is particularly relevant for firing range and hunting injuries or for sporting accidents. The course even addresses how to treat yourself if you’re all alone and how to help someone while under gunfire.

“No matter how well stocked your supplies are, they will eventually run out. Improvisation is therefore a big theme in ‘system collapse’ medicine…”

The “system collapse” section examines longer-term care scenarios. Wound cleaning and care is a very important skill in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Students also learn how to give local anesthesia and suture wounds. Chicken wings and thighs are used for practicing stitching closed cuts. Since chicken skin is very thin, it makes for an even tougher comparison to stitching human skin.

The course also discusses how to deal with contaminated food and water and covers how to prepare a personal collection of medical supplies and medications. In unsanitary conditions, the sort commonly found in developing countries, illness from environmental contamination, is the top reason for needing medical care. Contaminated water and the resulting gastrointestinal diseases are also among the greatest challenges following a natural disaster.

Proper supplies and training are essential. You only need to look at the daily news to see countless instances where such preparation could make the difference between life and death. Ellifritz recommends that, in addition to the usual first aid kit with antiseptic and bandages, you should stock splints, waterproof bandages, Steri-Strips, pressure bandages and tourniquets. However, he also emphasizes that no matter how well stocked your supplies are, they will eventually run out. Improvisation is therefore a big theme in “system collapse” medicine. Ellifritz himself is a great proponent of the versatility of duct tape, and says that hikers and backpackers in particular have learned to be especially ingenious at improvising medical devices and have important lessons to share.

All-Around Training

active shooter training, medical
Students have the
opportunity to practice skills like suturing and clearing airways.

In addition to acquiring practical knowledge, a tactical medicine course also helps students to prepare mentally for dealing with emergencies. Students gain self-confidence in their abilities and the tools to stay calm and rational in stressful situations. Preparation and forethought are heavily emphasized.

The Active Response Training class also covers some of the gray areas of emergency medicine, such as Good Samaritan scenarios. This discussion of when aiding someone is legal versus when providing care would best be left to the professionals gives students food for thought and is ideally considered before such a situation presents itself. The class is also instructed on the legal acquisition of medications (painkillers, antibiotics, epinephrine and local anesthesia) in order to avoid running afoul of drug and prescription laws. An expert instructor is invaluable to those concerned about navigating these types of legal quagmires.

Always Ready

greg ellifritz, training, medicine
Instructor Greg Ellifritz is a veteran police officer, and the course was inspired by his experience and world travels.

Greg Ellifritz is an extremely well-qualified instructor for this course. He is a veteran Ohio police officer who spent 13 years as a tactical training officer preparing his fellow first responders to deal with the worst emergencies. His certification and training cover everything from basic first aid to pandemic preparedness, field emergency medical care in hostile environments and combat trauma care. He has also been an instructor with the Tactical Defense Institute since 2001, teaching firearms, self-defense and knife defense courses at the national and international levels.

Ellifritz’s extensive travels in developing countries were the inspiration for teaching a “system collapse” medical class, after he realized that the same training would apply in the aftermath of natural disasters back home as well. His Active Response Training classes are mainly held in Ohio and Virginia several times per year, and each class has around 20 to 25 students. For interested students living in other parts of the country, there are similar courses offered through other instructors, and some are sure to be located in your area. There are even national-level conferences if you want to incorporate a class into an educational vacation or long weekend.

Students in the Tactical First Aid class range widely in their interests and reasons for learning emergency medicine. As expected, a fair number are preppers or live in disaster-prone areas and know that such skills may be required of them one day. Others are hunters, outdoor athletes or world travelers. Truly anyone from any walk of life can benefit from the practical training provided in this course, regardless of age, location or occupation. Even medical professionals find it worthwhile, since their training rarely includes battlefield medicine or the improvisation of equipment. If you can imagine yourself facing a medical emergency alone, Tactical First Aid and “System Collapse” Medicine can give you invaluable training that could potentially save your life or that of a loved one.

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This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE TM Fall 2014 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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