A common question we encounter in our travels is: “What supplies do you recommend for our medical storage?”. Indeed, the subject comes up so often that Nurse Amy put together a entire DVD Guide to Medical Supplies. The non-medical professional should not only understand what items to have on hand but their purpose(s) and how to effectively use them. This series (of which this is part 1) will give advice regarding the supplies you need. Keep in mind that, although we will discuss medical issues, this is primarily about supplies you need and not the problem itself.
THE MOST IMPORTANT SURVIVAL TOOL YOU’LL EVER HAVE
I was asked this recently be a fellow blogger, and in my opinion, it’s an easy question to answer. Your most important survival tool, especially as a medic, is your mind. It’s never too late to obtain medical knowledge and develop medical skills. Any other piece of equipment is a distant second to that amazing machine that is your brain.
To begin with, let’s talk about personal protection. No, I’m not talking about suits of armor. I’m referring to protecting yourself and others from injuries and infectious disease. It seems that we hear about possible pandemic diseases crossing our border on a regular basis. Blood splatter from actively bleeding wounds could transmit microbes to bare hands and eyes. Even if you can’t guarantee sterility, you can at least make the effort to keep the risks of infection as low as possible.
Use the power of prevention to your advantage. In any remote environment, your people will be performing activities of daily survival that they might not be accustomed to. Chopping wood would be one example; eye and hand protection, in the form of goggles and work gloves, could help prevent various injuries. It stands to reason that a beneficial side-effect of good prevention is conservation of precious supplies.
Medical items such as face masks, nitrile gloves, and even coveralls are useful to protect caregivers and patient:
Gloves: I recommend nitrile gloves due to the increasing number of latex allergies reported recently. I would use size 8 or “large”, as gloves that are too small tend to break. Gloves come in both sterile and non-sterile varieties. Get lots of the non-sterile for everyday work, but don’t fail to have some sterile pairs as well. Never touch an injured or infected person without gloves if you can help it.
Face Masks: These can be simple earloop versions or could be more advanced in the form of N95 and N100 “respirators”. These are masks that block out 95 or 100% (actually, 99.7%) of airborne particles larger than 0.3 microns. The “N” stands for non-oil resistant, which sets them aside from masks manufactured for agricultural or industrial use, which are oil-resistant (“R95”) or oil-proof (“P95”).
Coveralls, Boots, and Headgear: In mosquito-infested areas, there are special coveralls and headgear made from netting that are lifesavers. In epidemics of infectious disease, however, hazardous material (Hazmat) suits that cover the body, head and feet are helpful for the person in charge of the sick room. These often come with specialized shields that cover the entire face. For patients with injuries, these are usually not necessary.
Some items are of good general use for medical issues. One of my favorites is the “EMT shears” or “bandage scissors”. This is a special scissors meant to allow you to cut through clothing so that you can accurately assess the level of injury that you’re dealing with. Another general item that would be highly useful would be a headlamp. Injuries can occur at night as well as during the day. Using a headlamp frees up both hands to better handle emergencies.
A good supply of antiseptics will be important to keep your people healthy. Antiseptics are germ-killing substances that are applied to living tissue, usually skin, to reduce the possibility of infection. Antiseptics are different from antibiotics, which are meant to destroy bacteria within the body, and disinfectants, which destroy germs found on non-living objects, like kitchen or survival sick room surfaces.
I consider bleach to be the simplest disinfectant for cleaning sick room counter tops but it’s usually too strong for living tissue. For antiseptics to apply to skin, consider Betadine (Povidone-Iodine solution), Chlorhexidine (Hibiclens), Alcohol , Benzelkonium Chloride (BZK), or Hydrogen Peroxide. Many of these come as small as single square wipes all the way up to gallon-sized jugs. Commercial hand sanitizers and soap should also be present in quantity in your medical storage.
The above items comprise a reasonable start, but are only a few of the items that would make someone an effective medic in bad times. Over the course of this series, we’ll discuss various medical issues and the equipment necessary to be medically prepared.
In other news, our first run of Doom and Bloom’s SURVIVAL! board games will be heading out from the factory soon. Here’s a fun way to get the whole family involved in preparedness. We think it’s a great off-grid option, too, and gets people off their smartphones and tablets and gets them actually interacting with each other! Check the game out here: https://survivalboardgame.com/