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.



  1. Good post, but I would definitely add a manual blood pressure monitor. The result of high/low blood pressure can cause a cascade of medical issues. Learning how to use on is rather easy and cost me around $40 at my campus bookstore w/ a stethoscope included. As always, knowledge is the best item to have in any situation. Ask a nurse or other health care professional to teach you how to use one- they'll probably be more than happy to help you out. I'd also like to add that they are more reliable/accurate than battery powered ones.

    1. Great point! Thanks for the comment -- Your medical expertise is such a wonderful resource! In addition to accuracy, with a manual cuff set we also wouldn't need to worry about batteries in a longer 'situation.'

      Is there any general basic emergency training you can recommend for just us regular folks?

    2. I don't know about my "medical expertise", but classes would be a huge benefit and also some fish antibiotics. I have a post on my site that can be used as a reference ( I think it is ranked #1 on the popular list ) on how to research fish antibiotics. You did a great job on the post. May I reference your article on my site?

    3. Thanks for the nice compliment. Am trying to stay true to the theme here and keep the blog somewhat basic. This subject is especially difficult for me to stay basic, because it is so important. My EFAK isn't very basic anymore, so tried not to overwhelm any newbies.

      Of course you can reference my blog! I'd be honored. I will edit this one pronto to provide a link to your posting on antibiotics. I have some of those myself, but figured it would make this post very long, so GLAD to have the link for those who want to know more.

  2. Nice blog. Akums Drugs has acquired recognition among world-wide for offering confident quality tablets. We ensure that our tablets are firmly screened on unique chemical structure before their final appearance. Antibiotic tablets

  3. Impressive blog! A must share and a must read to everyone.
    A great reminder that first aid kit is really a must have. A huge thanks for sharing this.

    First aid products

  4. First aid kits are necessary for every household no matter the age of who lives in the home. Injuries can happen anytime and anywhere. When you have a first aid kit within easy access of wherever you are you will ensure the safety of everyone.

    Click Here