Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just a little more on your Emergency First Aid Kit...

I updated yesterday's post with a link to a great article on antibiotics.  Thanks mucho, K!

Also, some useful supplies are available at much lower cost at your neighborhood ranch supply or feed store. I buy betadine solution and items for irrigating wounds in the horse supply area there.

Speaking of irrigating wounds: I forgot to mention that small separate baggies (or mini-tupperwares) of salt,  baking soda and white sugar should be in your kit along with some small measuring spoons.  I also keep a small canister of Morton's Salt Substitute (food grade potassium chloride or KCl) from the grocery store in my bag.  USING A GOOD REFERENCE, you can do a lot with this stuff and clean water -- making a saline external irrigation or soaking solution; making a rehydration solution; adding a small amount (less than a dash) of KCl to some water to help relieve leg or foot cramps and many more.  Other more serious conditions may be helped with these simple ingredients, but you must have a good emergency medical reference and some training or you can do real harm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Building Your Emergency First Aid Kit

NOTE to Readers: The Google Blogger now adds double underline to words or phrases in my posts to send you to their advertizers. I haven't found a way to stop it yet. Please know these are not advertizers I recommend, in fact the '37 things' link is one of the most annoying ads I've ever seen.

Now for my intended posting:

It's one thing to have some bactine and band-aids in a pouch for everyday boo-boos, but a first aid kit for your emergency preparedness supplies is a different animal. By its very nature, it may be first and ONLY medical aid for 72 or more hours. Band-aids and bactine probably won't do the trick.

As a reminder, this is your Emergency FAK. See previous post about your Personal Med Bag (PMB) which is equally important.  Don't put stuff in your EFAK for others to use that you can't spare from your PMB, only those general use and critical care items should go in here. For example: if you regularly take a pain medication and have enough in your PMB to last you through a reasonably foreseeable emergency,  you may wish to contribute a few 'excess' to the EFAK. In doing this, you relinquish claim to them, and they go to whoever needs them first.

Thinking through your specific needs requires going back to basics.  What were those potential emergency situations again? Earthquake? Flood? Tornado? Wildfire? Based on which ones apply to your location and situation, and who the kit is meant to support, you can start to frame what goes in it. Remember family, friends and your level of willingness to be a good Samaritan to strangers in the process.

Some bloody traumatic injuries are to be expected in many disaster or emergency situations. That also means open wounds.  So start with self-protection including gloves, some masks and eye protection if you don't wear glasses. Add some of that alcohol gel hand sanitizer for good measure. Now, what about the victim?

If your budget is tight, you can improvise some items, but they should still be in the kit. I'm not taking things in order (i.e. this is not medical advice) so add a first aid class, or better yet some sort of emergency or trauma training, to your list. There may be some free ones through your fire or police department. In any injury situation where an open wound is involved, you'll need something to stop bleeding. Clean bandaging and a way to secure it to the site are important. If your budget allows, you can get a quick-clot impregnated bandage for $10 to $15 from several mail order sources. These should be for those really scary bleeding wounds. Whether secured with a larger pressure bandage from a package, made from a strip of sheeting or from high quality medical tape, you'll need something to hold the bandage in place and maintain some pressure. Consideration for cleaning the wound and preventing infection is also important.

 If and only if you are willing to move a patient for professional care OR you need to save a life by potentially causing someone to lose a limb, include a tourniquet.  Read about these well in advance, as they are very serious medical intervention with a lot of potentially negative impacts.

Clearing and maintaining an airway is also a major issue. Some military surplus kits or backwoods hiking suppliers can help you there with specially-made disposable airways. Otherwise, gloves and some alcohol pads may be better than nothing.

A wilderness or special forces medical text is a good idea. Some can be downloaded from the web. Pay attention to how to suture a wound. Worst case, a curved fabric needle and some sterilized upholstery thread may suffice. Keep your antiseptic and matches in the kit -- matches in a water resistant or waterproof container. You may not be able to create a true sterile field, but do what you can if professional help is not an option.

Do your research on burn treatments and have something for those as well, anticipating that there may be some large burns, not just a finger tip.

Have the usually triple antibiotic ointment, tweezers and adhesive bandages in multiple sizes for the more common splinters and scrapes -- or for picking foreign debris out of scrapes and injuries. I also keep campho-phenique liquid. It is messy and smelly, but it kills some nasty stuff and relieves pain unlike most other OTC antiseptics.

A few hours after the injury has been treated to the best of your ability, pain is likely to start. Some victims may not be able to swallow meds. Both oral meds and pain patches should be stocked if you can afford them.  Tylenol may be better than aspirin if there is potential for internal bleeding. Baby aspirin should be on hand for possible heart attacks.  There may be little else to offer other than keeping the patient quiet and comfortable.

Antiseptics and antibiotics are important.  Speak with your MD and ask for generic antibiotics for each member of your family for both a broad spectrum like azithromycin and a course of generic flagyl for problems like giardia. If your MD has a favorite for dysentery, ask for that as well. Another good source of common antibiotics is addressed very well here, if you want to have a more robust capability to really weather a storm and its aftermath. Throw in some over the counter probiotics for later in the treatment to stop diarrhea that can result from too many intestinal organisms being killed.

I keep several other items in my EFAK. These include 2 or 3 Mylar emergency blankets, 2 bandannas,  a pair of 'trauma' scissors (can be cheap kitchen scissors -- just heavy duty enough to cut through fabric like someones pants), fire starter, Gatorade powder, water purification tablets, glucose tablets, a forehead thermometer strip, 3 yards of fine black netting from the Walmart fabric center, a collapsible cup, 2 ace bandages, individually packaged Wet Ones, OTC meds and a good pocket knife.  Much of this I scavenged from around the house or from my own past injuries (ace bandages!).  I bought 8 Gatorade packets for $2 at Big Lots, put 4 in the kit and fed the other 4 to my husband as a reward for doing yard work. He like it! These gathered things can be used to treat shock or deyhdration, sprained or broken arms or ankles, low blood sugar, and to make someone more comfortable (netting can be a bug-exclusion tent).  OTC meds include treatment for allergies, diarrhea, nausea and flu symptoms.

I'm saving up for a pulse-oxygen meter, the finger tip kind. Not sure why, but it just seems like one should be in the kit, and maybe a blood pressure cuff. These may be beyond the scope of such a kit.  Gives me something to think about before I make the investment. What do you think?  What do you think I'm missing?

My EFAK is in an old carry-on bag -- a red one. The color makes it easy to pick out in the pile of emergency supplies so I can get to it more quickly. It also reminds me to pack it where I can get to it easily ... in case of emergency!  It has 3 external zippered pockets.  I put a Ziplock bag with STOP THE BLEEDING supplies in one of the pockets, another Ziploc with BREATHING supplies in another pocket, and some of the comfort and SHOCK supplies in the third pocket. This allows fast access for the most critical needs.

 Think about what is likely in your potential emergency situations, research and build or refine your EFAK. Then remember to review at least every September as part of your annual preparedness update.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Personal Medication Bag

Another National Preparedness Month task is to address two related but different items.  Your First Aid Kit (FAK) is not the vehicle for your day-to-day medicines in case of an emergency.  Your Personal Med Bag (PMB) is. Your preparedness provisions should contain both, and be constructed in consideration of the likely emergencies in your area.

Don't take any daily prescription meds?  Read this anyway, as it may apply to your use of over-the-counter meds or to a family member's preparedness.

My advice for your PMB is to go a little beyond the 72 hours suggested by FEMA. Food or water can be managed to stretch if needed.  Do you want to do the same for blood pressure meds? Insulin? Pain management meds? Maybe not. A situation may be bad enough that the '72 hours' is just to get you to a shelter but not enough to have your pharmacy's or MD's records available. That may take long enough for a disastrous spike in blood sugar or pressure. Not good. If you have chronic pain or have a family member suffering the pain of terminal cancer, do you want them in the same line as the drug-seeking addicts in hopes some bureaucrat can determine the difference?

I keep at least 2 weeks of my daily meds and one week of my 'as needed' meds in my PMB. If you have a physician who will entertain providing you a prescription for this contingency, that's great.  The next hurdle is whether your insurance will pay for it or you must take it out of pocket. If you're as forgetful as I am, it may not be a problem.  I usually have a few synthroid or clarinex left over at  the end of the month. Sometimes I call in the prescription a couple days early to save myself an extra trip to town. Having that little cushion can also be helpful if you have extended travel plans and you don't use a big chain pharmacy.

Are you prone to cold sores or other herpes infections? Ever had chicken pox? Emergencies are stressful, so you will probably have an outbreak or possibly a case of shingles.  A course of that as-needed Valtrex will save you a lot of discomfort!  For your own protection and to reduce the potential for confiscation, your meds in your PMB should be in bottles with the original prescription, and the labels should reflect a date within the last year. This is why I go through mine each September, if not more often.

You may want a few over-the-counter favorites in your PMB, too. I keep a few Advil, mucinex, cough suppressant and decongestant in case of catching a cold. There is a little bottle of allergy eye drops and one with just artificial tears.  I have tums, pepto tablets, lomotil, gas-ex, acidophillus and an acid blocker in case of gastrointestinal distress. You may have other ideas, but those are the most likely discomforts for me.

For most of my OTC meds and eye items, I've just taken a few individual use items and put them into another small container. Buying the 'travel' size of most of these is frightfully expensive. See if your favorite pharmacy has a free pill container -- the divided kind. If not, get a cheap one and stash your OTC meds in that.

I also a have a few 'favorite' first-aid items. I keep a few curad latex-free adhesive bandages, a small bottle of campho-phenique and a tube of triple antibiotic plus pain reliever ointment as well. I know they will work for me on cuts and scrapes.  Having the latex-free is important for me, as regular band-aids leave an itchy contact-dermatitis welt on me.

Your FAK is another animal altogether. I'll address that in my next posting.

Friday, September 7, 2012

What's in YOUR car?

How long is your daily commute? Do you live more than 5 minute's from 'town?'  If so, do you stock a 'get me home' or a 'shelter in place' kit in your vehicle? If not, perhaps you should think about it.

I lived and worked in San Francisco during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.  Many people in my office lived across the bay or south of the city. The quake occurred just before 'quitting time.' Rapid transit was shut down immediately pending inspection of the tunnel under the bay. The train schedule for parts south was canceled for the same reason.  Highways were closed pending inspections of the bridges and overpasses.  We all know about the Oakland Bay bridge, a major commuter transportation link.  The airport was shut down for safety inspections. Even the ferries did not run for a while during their dock inspections.

I was fortunate to have parked in an outdoor lot that day, rather than an underground lot -- most of the latter were immediately closed pending safety inspections. Before I left the office for home, about 1.5 miles away, I offered several people rides to my place and a couch or floor for the night. No takers -- probably folks were in denial that they were stranded for an extended period. I later heard the tale of that evening.

At first, the rent-a-guards kicked everyone out of the building. About 50 people had nowhere else to go.  Luckily, the building manager returned to work and reversed that policy, especially for those who could not use their normal means to get home.   Then the city cut power so that the infrastructure could be inspected -- no 1906 fires this time!

The company had no earthquake supplies in the building. Can you even grasp that? There were some emergency lights that came on. Luckily there was a cafeteria, which was forcibly entered. Food and drink were found for the stranded. I'm sure it was a long night in a mostly dark building with the clothes on their backs.  It was several days before travel capabilities were back -- not to 'normal' but to 'available' with a longer delay or longer route to bridges north or south of town.

Most of the 'stranded' were able to get home within 24 hours. Some carried no cash. Others had no comfy walking shoes. Most had nothing helpful in their desk drawers. Few had anything in their cars to support their needs, despite the frequent reminders of the potential -- and the numerous small quakes we had on a routine basis. What if it had been worse?
What about you? What hazards are possible at your work location? What if you needed to shelter in place for 24 hours? Do you have a desk pack that will last you 24 hours? What about in your car? A change of clothes, comfy shoes, compact blanket? How about a flashlight, bottle of water, shelf-stable meals? Don't forget first aid and hygiene supplies -- a toothbrush or wisp, unscented wipes, a little TP? You don't need to buy a fancy pre-made kit. Those tend to be heavy on the band aids and light on the everyday useful things you have around the house. How about that ugly fleece blanket from Aunt Suzie? What better sign of appreciation than to have it where you may need it to save your lives? Chef Boyardee ravioli is incredibly nutritious, inexpensive and can be eaten cold from the can in an emergency. Get the idea?

Do you travel by air frequently in your work or for pleasure? If so, what's your emergency pack for the trip? What additional items are in your suitcase in a fanny pack in case of problems?

National Preparedness Month is not just about being prepared at home.  It is about being prepared wherever you are. Your car is a good place to start.

If you have trouble thinking about what should be in your kit, lots of websites have lists. Among others are the Red Cross and the Church of Latter Day Saints. Because of their preparedness mandate, the LDS Church website has a lot of well-organized emergency preparedness guidance and it's free to all.

Monday, September 3, 2012

What can YOU do with a Mylar emergency blanket?

The basic uses for a reflective Mylar emergency blanket are relatively obvious: shawl or blanket, ground cover, rain protector, sun shade. 

What are some other uses? If you cut it up, will a big square of it make a good sling? Will it hold together if you place grommets on it to make more of a tent? Can it be easily made into a stretcher or something to move the incapacitated? Is there a way to make a safe hammock with one?

Let's have a contest to see how many different uses we can amass, keeping safety in mind -- example: if you suggest using as a baby carrier sling -- would you carry your child in what you might suggesting? How do you cut, roll, tie or wrap the blanket to make the 'new' use.

If you have used a Mylar blanket as something other than the uses in the first sentence above, let us all know in the comments. There could be some very frugal applications of the humble 'space blanket' that will replace more expensive items. At about $1 each, that could be a lot of savings.

Rules are that you can make simple changes, such as cutting  or tying corners. You can apply grommets from simple kits and use parachute cord, laundry line, string or dental floss -- things that are in your normal emergency kit.

In the mean time, I'll try to think up a fitting but frugal reward for the top suggestions!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Happy National Preparedness Month!

Since September 2002, our government has designated September as National Preparedness Month.  This is a great time to review or maintain your existing plans and supplies.  If you don't have plans and supplies, it is a great time to start the process. If you are a novice, this site is designed especially for you.  Please review the pages listed at the top of the blog, starting with Prep 101.  The steps will lead you through many simple, low cost ways to start thinking about your -- and your family's --preparedness needs.  Additional steps will help you gather and store what you have on hand so you can more easily find it in an emergency.  Older postings on the blog will provide my own insights and lessons learned, especially when I have learned by goofing!

Other pages listed along the top will provide some sources of help for low-cost emergency preparedness.  If there are seminars, open houses or other 'trade shows' on preparedness in your community this month, GO TO THEM.  Not only do they usually give away free useful stuff like flashlights and water bottles, you can also learn skills!  After decades of walking past and even inspecting fire extinguishers, I finally got to use one on a real fire at one of these events. It was a small fire, started by firemen for each trainee.  They also coached each of us on how to use the extinguisher -- AIM AT THE BASE OF THE FIRE, not the flames.  I didn't understand that before!! 

Take advantage of opportunities to get yourselves and your homes calibrated for the coming winter!