Preparedness Pays: Draft Chapter 5A

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NOTE: This is a (very) rough draft

Harm Comes In Many Forms

Originally, I had thought to title this chapter Physical Harm so I could do a pun off Fiscal Harm in a later chapter. However, that really doesn’t work as in addition to physical harm, there can also be mental and spiritual harm to individuals in the course of a disaster. Sound preparedness demands that you be prepared for all types of harm.

Before you start going off on all the things that can happen, remember that it doesn’t have to be complicated unless you make it that way. Yes, the potential numbers of disasters, or injuries, is almost infinite. So, don’t focus on infinity, but on the three types of injury: everyday, trauma, mental/spiritual. There, three things, not infinity. Now, let’s start breaking this down a bit so you can plan effectively for you and your situation.

Everyday life has its moments and its wounds, or at least boo-boos. There are the scraped knees, twisted ankles, sprained fingers, the tears — heck with kids, that can be me on a good day. Growing up, I had family, friends, and acquaintances who could have formed their own clan, with a motto of “Hey Ya’ll, Watch This!” Your humble author, of course, never did anything like that. [Editor’s Note: Bullshit].

One way to look at it is that everyday injuries are the things you can deal with on your own that don’t require a trip to the doctor or emergency room. They are the things you know how to handle because you parents or others took care of them for you when you were growing up. They are the things for which you can take some basic first aid courses and feel confident in handling.

A basic, or expanded basic, first aid kit gives you all you need to handle such injuries. Bandages, ointment, wound cleaning, eye-flush, basic tools, a few other supplies, and you are good to go. Add in some things to keep around the house like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, cold- and hot-compresses, and some other items, and you truly can handle the everyday injuries that come with life.

Trauma, on the other hand, requires a bit more training and preparation. Traumatic injuries can be defined for planning purposes as any injury that requires treatment by a doctor, emergency room, or hospital. The first aid kits for trauma are going to be a bit different, as they should include things like tourniquets, clotting bandages, pressure bandages, and other items for dealing with severe injuries. An Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) is an example of a trauma-level first aid item.

Why prepare for trauma? Like everyday injuries, trauma can strike at any time. When I was driving long distances extensively a few years ago, I carried a trauma kit with me because accidents happen, and on rural interstates and roads the first responders might be minutes or more away. Bleeding out won’t wait for the EMTs and others to arrive. Right now, an intersection near where I live sees a lot of wrecks, so both my neighbor and I keep a kit at the ready despite medics being close by. When trauma strikes, seconds often count.

You don’t need an earthquake, tornado, or nuclear war to get trauma. It’s going to hit all around you every day. Accidents, crime, and more generate trauma and if it doesn’t hit you, you may be the one who can make the difference between life and death by taking action before the first responders can even think about getting to the scene. That’s some additional food for thought to factor into your planning.

Finally, there is mental and spiritual damage for which you need to be prepared. Yes, a tornado, earthquake, or nuclear war are going to have an impact on you. So will being first on the scene of an accident and doing what you can for those involved. Or trying to comfort someone when they are injured or are watching the medics work on a loved one. Even dealing with some extensive everyday injuries to a child can hit you (and the child). It’s only smart to plan for it now, while you can do so.

Now is where things can get a little complex. You have the basics, now we need to factor in the length of the disaster. Remember, for planning purposes a minor disaster will last minutes up to a week. A moderate disaster will last a week up to a month. A major disaster is a month or longer. The longer a disaster lasts, the more you have to be prepared to do on your own.

In a minor disaster, your ability to contact or reach medical assistance may not be impacted at all, or be something that results in a delay of minutes. If it moves towards being a week or more, there are increasingly good odds that your contact with, or ability to reach, medical assistance can be delayed or lost. If you are in a moderate to major disaster, you should consider that you may have little to no outside medical help for an unknown period of time.

So, what does this mean for your planning? Here are a few thoughts.

First, get all the training you can and if you know people already trained, start thinking about adding them to your plans despite the first rule. The more training you and those around you have, the better. There are any number of options for courses, from paid to free, so see what is available near you that you can work into your schedule. Things like basic first aid, use of an AED, CPR, and even advanced first aid are all a good place to start. Do you need to become a certified EMT? Maybe. Maybe not. As always, you have to figure out what works for you and your situation, and develop your plan accordingly.

Second, learn about the “Good Samaritan” laws in your state, and if you are going to travel out-of-state, in those states too. Sadly, in this day and age, CYA is needed. You also need to think about how much you would be willing or able to do in the face of a moderate- to major-disaster. The sad fact is, however, that in a moderate- to major-disaster, with the loss of access to medical assistance, there are going to be times that nothing can be done. Accept and prepare for that as well.

Third, plan your kits according to your needs. For example, in my opinion, many so-called basic kits I’ve bought in the past have had a number of items that were not really useful. I set them aside, and added in things that I have found to actually be useful. For example, adding moleskin and similar was a good idea for hikes and such. Getting rid of cheap tools and replacing them with better is a great idea. While there are many options, I’ve found some great deals on paramedic scissors, surgical scissors, and other tools at flea markets and even gun shows. Are they your super-high-end name brand tools? No, but they can be sterilized and they work. From hemostats to various exam tools, think about what you might need if not able to access medical assistance for some time and plan to address those needs.

Along those lines, look at possible trauma needs. There are a number of excellent pre-done trauma kits, from ones that easily can fit on a belt or in a car door pocket, to larger kits intended for medics. If you can afford it, allow me to suggest that having small kits in each vehicle, purse, or bag is a very good idea. When we talk about bugout bags later, sticking a good basic kit and a larger trauma kit in each is also a very good idea. Having that large bag in the house is also a good thing.

Fourth, start thinking about your mental and spiritual needs as well. For the longer term, what are the things that may bring you peace or comfort? Some may call it pampering, but you will need some things to bring you comfort and aid, so get them in place now. In the shorter term, you will find that in many cases if you are in an accident or you help those who are in such, the first responders may offer you access to a chaplain or other counselor. Don’t be stupid, take them up on it. It may be that you should consider a course on dealing with trauma and stress, as it may be you having to comfort others as well as yourself.

Going back to something I said earlier, yes, the first rule of Preparedness Club is that there is no preparedness club. The less people know of your preparations, the better and safer for you and yours. That said, this is one of the times where you need to start thinking about expanding your circle of friends.

The fact is, there is strength in numbers. Having others you can count on will lessen the impact of any disaster. The thing is, you need to have absolute trust in those people and that they understand the first rule. If they do and happen to have combat lifesaver training, well, that’s a good thing. If you know someone who is a surgical tech, nurse, EMT, or other, and they fit the bill, sound them out and work them into your plans. Even if they are not interested, but are willing to help you develop your plans and kits, that’s a win.

The longer the disaster, the greater the need for others you can count upon. Trained medical assistance is one of the most pressing of those needs. Just a thought to keep in mind as you plan.

Now, as a thought to consider in your plans: what other resources can you or should you get? One such is written material on first aid or more. When I say written, I like to keep paper copies around but if you can find something where you can get both print and an electronic copy, all the better. Put the e-copy on your phone, computer, flash drive that’s in your bugout bag, and anywhere else you can. The more ways to access it, the better. Meantime, you have that print copy you can access even when the power is out.

Back more years ago that I want to think about, I had a book Being Your Own Wilderness Doctor. Back in those days, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth, there were no cell phones, satellite phones, or other options for instant communications. If you were doing extensive hiking and camping, you could find yourself days away from civilization. That particular book guided you through the steps to put yourself or a companion back together enough for you to survive to get help. There are still resources like that, and I do strongly suggest you look for them and add them to your planning.

Now, a thought to consider as you are looking at what resources you need for this area of planning. The longer the emergency, the greater the need for resources. It is never a bad idea to keep OTC nausea, anti-diarrhea, and pain killers on hand. If you believe that a moderate- to major-disaster looms, from war to something everyone but the politicians see coming, stock up on all the OTC medications you can. As much of as many different types as possible. Again, just a thought but one you need to factor into your plans at the start.

Congratulations! You now have the basic blocks to start planning for how to handle harm to you and others in the event of an emergency. If you stick with those blocks, it makes planning a much more simple process and you are less likely to miss something important.

The book as it goes:

Preparedness Pays: Draft Introduction

Preparedness Pays: Draft Chapter 1A

Preparedness Pays: Draft Chapter 2A

Preparedness Pays: Draft Chapter 3A

Preparedness Pays: Draft Chapter 4A