Our mission has always been simple: To have a medically self-reliant person in every family that is ready to handle issues during or after a disaster. That person has to learn some basic medical knowledge, such as first aid, principles of infectious disease, and how to handle a problem long-term if necessary. Every “survival medic” should make a status assessment BEFORE a disaster occurs and accumulate the supplies necessary to be a truly effective caregiver. The medic should asks themselves the following questions:
What Collapse Scenario Are You Preparing For?
It’s important to accumulate medical supplies and knowledge that will work in any survival situation, but what are you actually expecting to happen? Your preparations should be modified to fit the particular situation that you believe will cause modern medical care to be unavailable. There are many possible scenarios that could cause times of trouble, and each of them requires some specialized planning. Your readiness to deal with the most likely illnesses or injuries will increase your effectiveness exponentially.
If you feel that we are on the verge of an economic collapse, you probably believe that the reliable transport of food from farms to the public will no longer exist (nobody is paying the truckers). In that case, malnutrition will be rampant. Your responsibility as medic would be to make sure that your group’s food storage includes everything required to give good nutrition. Stockpiling vitamin supplements, commercial or natural, would be a good strategy in this situation. Even if not taken daily, vitamin supplements may be helpful in preventing diseases caused by deficiencies.
Nutrients in a Collapse Situation
Knowledge of what nutrients are present in local plant life will be useful. Take the following historical example: In the 1500s, a Spanish exploration party was dying of scurvy (Vitamin C deficiency) in the middle of a pine forest. Native Americans came upon them and took pity on their situation. They walked to the nearest pine tree and picked some green pine needles. They made a tea out of them and nursed the Spaniards back to health. They knew that pine needles were rich in Vitamin C. That knowledge will be useful for you, as well.
Are you concerned about civil unrest? In that case, tailor your supplies and training to equip you to deal with possible traumatic injuries. Stock up on bandages and antiseptics. Other specialized equipment such as splints and blood clotting agents would be necessary in this circumstance. Here’s a link to my article on two popular blood clotters:
(Special Note: The nice folks from Celox now tell me that people allergic to seafood CAN use their products, even thought they are processed from the shells of crustaceans.)
Many people are concerned about the possibility of a pandemic. If you’re worried about a “super flu” descending on your area, stock up on masks and gloves as well as antiviral drugs (such as osteltamivir (Tamiflu). Ask your physician for a prescription of this medication for every member of your family before every flu season). Figure out a quarantine strategy and how to put together a sick room that will decrease exposure to healthy family members. Here’s my article on the survival sick room:
How about a nuclear reactor meltdown? To take this to extremes, perhaps you live near an army base, a large city or a nuclear plant and you’re concerned about a terrorist group setting off a nuclear bomb. In that scenario, you’ll have to know how to protect your group from radiation, and how to build an effective shelter. You’ll want medications like Potassium Iodide to counteract some of the long-term effects of radiation on the thyroid gland.
So, you can see that your supplies and training may vary somewhat, depending on the course of events. Discuss these scenarios with your family or community, and plan accordingly.
How Many People Will You Be Responsible For?
Your store of medical supplies should correlate well with the number of persons that you will be responsible for. If you have stockpiled 5 treatment courses of antibiotics, it might be enough for a couple or a sole individual, but it will go fast if you are taking care of 20 people.
Remember that most of those people will be out performing tasks that they aren’t used to doing. They will be making campfires, chopping wood and toting gallons and gallons of water. You’ll see more injuries like sprains and strains, fractures, lacerations, and burns among those people if they are forced to perform activities of daily survival. The injured will need items from your medical storage.
It only makes sense to accumulate as many supplies as you possibly can. You might wind up dealing with more survivors than you expected; in reality, you almost certainly will, so you can never have too many medical supplies. The biggest mistake that the survival medic will make is the underestimation of the number of people that will appear on their doorstep in times of trouble. Make allowances for more people than you currently expect.
Don’t be concerned that you have too much stored away. Any “excess” items will always be highly sought after for barter purposes. You might spend your money on buying physical silver and gold, but you won’t be able to set a broken bone or wrap a sprained ankle with “precious” metals. Food and medical items will be more valuable than mining stocks in hard times. Don’t become complacent just because you have a closet full of bandages; they will be used more quickly than you think. Even one major hemorrhage could consume all your available bandages.
The bottom line is simple: Always have more medical items on hand than you think are sufficient for the number of people in your group. Any extra medical items will be very valuable as barter items in times of trouble.
What Special Needs Will You Have To Care For?
The special issues you will deal with depend on who is in your group. The medical needs of children or the elderly are different from an average adult. Women have different health problems than men. Children are their own species in terms of reactions to medicines. You will have to know if group members have a chronic condition, such as asthma or diabetes. Failure to take things like this into account could be catastrophic. For example, would you be prepared if you found out a group member required adult diapers AFTER a calamity occurs?
Be certain to interview all of your group members, so that you won’t be surprised that this person has thyroid problems, or that person has high blood pressure. All of these variables will modify the supplies and medical knowledge you must obtain. Encourage those with special needs to stockpile materials that will help keep them well. Encourage them to have a frank discussion with their physician and obtain extra drug prescriptions in case of emergency (and have them filled in advance).
What Physical Environment Will You Live In?
Is your retreat is a cold climate? If so, you will need to know how to keep people warm and how to treat hypothermia. If you’re located in a hot climate, you will need to know how to treat heat stroke. Is your environment wet and humid? People who are chronically wet generally don’t stay healthy, so you will have to have a strategy to keep your group members dry. Are you in a dry, desert-like environment? If you are, you will have to provide strategies for providing lots of clean water.
Some people live in areas where all of the above conditions exist at one point or another during the year. These considerations might even be a factor in where you would choose to live if a collapse situation is imminent.
These are just some of the consideration that the effective medic will have taken into account before a disaster occurs. Next time, we’ll discuss a number of other important questions that the medically-responsible individual will ask themselves in tough times.
Read Part 2 of this article series
Joe Alton, M.D. aka Dr. Bones, the Disaster Doctor
If you’d like a great reference book to deal with medical issues in times of trouble, get a copy of our second edition of “The Survival Medicine Handbook”. Here’s our book trailer video:
Read more than 40 reviews of the book on Amazon.com at: https://www.amazon.com/The-Survival-Medicine-Handbook-Guide/dp/0988872536/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1381437514&sr=8-1&keywords=survival+medicine+handbook