In the medical field we often say “air goes in-and-out, blood goes round-and-round. Any variation of this is a problem.”
With that in mind, we need to prepare ourselves for the serious stuff. And I’m not talking about plasters and upset stomachs here. I’m talking about an active shooter in the local mall. Or a hijacked tour bus in a foreign town. And the stuff that makes you think; “shit, that will never happen to me!” Well folks, have you checked the news lately? It’s happening an awful lot.
Obviously we cannot all walk around with a large medical bag, so we need to focus on the basics; the necessities or the foundation of medical gear, if you will. My opinion below is factored on the basis that hemorrhage is largely the main cause of combat fatalities.
You will notice that I do not include items like trauma scissors and space blankets – this is intentional. This list is primarily for self-aid, followed by buddy-aid as a last option. It is not a comprehensive kit.
Your EDC Medical Kit
- Compression bandage.
I will briefly expand upon each item:
There are many. Very many. RAT, CAT, SOF T, et cetera. My personal choice is the CAT, or Combat Application Tourniquet. This is a critical item, and it can stop massive bleeds. You can easily apply it, even one-handedly.
Not all gauze is created equal. We have gauze sheets, gauze rolls, and the king of them all – homeostatic gauze. Traditionally we use “S” or “Z” rolled gauze and gauze sheets to pack wounds. However, once they reach their saturated capacity they suffer a critical breakdown, and we need to either replace the gauze or put further dressings over them. Hemostatic gauze, like quick-clot combat gauze which is impregnated with an agent (MCH), not only slows the bleed, but also reacts with the blood to start the clotting cascade immediately. It does cost more, but who puts a price on life?
You can pick and choose among many. Such as Criti bands, Israeli, Olaes, Blast, and many others. Commonly available in SA are the numbered field dressings or conforming bandages.
I prefer a bandage that has a pad on it, as this assists with wound protection. However, a good conforming bandage will work with gauze.
Non-powdered. The right size. Nitrile. Extended cuff if you can get it.
Know how to use your medical kit
That is the absolute foundation of a kit. These items require minimal training to use effectively. Now, there are other items that can be beneficial, such as chest seals. However, you need a bit of knowledge to identify the necessity of one. The above list is short, because the more you add to it, the less likely you are to keep it on you.
It is just as important to have sufficient training as it is to have quality gear. I cannot place enough emphasis on the importance of training. Remember that the goal of an IFAK is not to provide prolonged care, but rather to sustain life up until you can get the person the definitive care they require as quickly as possible.
I always preach a tiered approach to all gear. adhering to the philosophy of “one is none, and two is one”. You can certainly choose more comprehensive kits available to you. As an example, carry the above items on your person or in an EDC bag. Then duplicate them, and add a few more items to a bag that lives in your car or office. That way you have more options. If you are travelling, make sure each person has a kit and the knowledge to use it.
Where and how to compile a medical kit
Because you don’t carry it on your person, a vehicle medical kit or office kit will be slightly more advanced. You can pack a much wider spectrum of kit into it, thus increasing the scope of what you can deal with.
Trauma is the primary concern. So immediately double the contents of your IFAK and add it to a pouch in the bag labeled “trauma”. Or whatever you like. Remember, in high-stress situations simplicity saves lives.
You can now explore other options like splints, different dressings, plasters, over-the-counter medications, a small head lamp, and so on.
A lot of us carry E&E bags or get-home bags already. So the idea of adding yet another bag to an already crowded boot might sound like a chore. However, the bag doesn’t have to be bigger than rugby ball if packed correctly.
You are preparing to render aid in an immediate capacity – not long term. Thus you do not need to carry a mountain of gear with you.
We have decades of research that shows tampons, sanitary pads, and nappies are no longer necessary in a IFAK. Or even desirable at all. So don’t pack them. Rather get purpose-designed gear that has the ability to increase survivability in traumatic situations.
Written by Brandon Danks.
Brandon has been putting plasters on boo-boos in a few exciting places around South Africa for well over a decade. He’s a gun-lovin’, knife-crazy big ol’ grumpy bastard, with a passion for providing the best level of medical care to anyone in need.