Survival Patient Transport

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 As I have mentioned in the past, the main goal of a medic in most scenarios is to transfer the injured or ill person to a modern medical facility.  These facilities, as you might imagine, will be non-existent in long-term collapse scenarios.  One of the major decisions that you, as medic, will have to make is  whether your patient can be treated for their medical problem in their present location or not.  If they cannot, you must consider how to move your patient to where the bulk of your medical supplies are.

Whether to Move a Patient

Before deciding whether to move a patient, stabilize them as much as possible.  This means stopping all bleeding, splinting orthopedic injuries, and verifying that the person is breathing normally.  If you cannot assure this, consider having a group member get the supplies needed to support the patient before you move them.  Have as many helpers available to assist you as you can.  The most important thing to remember is that you want to carry out the evacuation with the least trauma to your patient and to yourself.

Keep the head and spine stable

 Stretchers and Medical Supplies

An important medical supply in this circumstance is a stretcher.  Many good commercially-produced stretchers are available, but improvised stretchers can be put together without too much effort.  For example, an ironing board might make an effective transport device.  Other options include taking two long sticks or poles and inserting coats or shirts through them to handle the weight of the victim. As the rescuer grasps both poles, a helper could pull the coat off; this automatically moves the coat onto the poles. Lengths of Paracord can also be crisscrossed to form an effective stretcher/

Types of Makeshift Stretchers and Transportation Modes

There is always the possibility that you might be alone with the victim with no help nearby. If you must pull a person to safety by yourself, grasp their coat or shirt at the shoulders with both hands, allowing their head to rest on your forearms.  You could also place a blanket under the patient, and grasp the end of the blanket near their head. If you are uncertain about the extent of any spinal injuries, do your best to not allow much bending of the body or neck during transport.  Patient transport is often tough on your muscles and joints, and probably just as tough on the victim.

If your patient can be carried, there are various methods available for a single rescuer:

The “Fireman’s Carry” is effective and keep’s the victim’s torso relatively level and stable.  In a squatting or kneeling position, you would grasp the person’s right wrist with your left hand and place it over your right shoulder.  Keeping your back straight, place your right hand between their legs and around the right thigh.  Using your leg muscles to lift, rise up and you should have their torso over your back and the right thigh resting over your right shoulder.  Their left arm and leg will hang behind your back if you have done it correctly.  Adjust their weight so as to cause the least strain.

Another option is the “Pack-Strap Carry”.  With your patient behind you, grasp both arms and cross them across your chest.   If squatting, keep your back straight and use your legs and back muscles to lift the victim.  Bend slightly so that the person’s weight is on your hips and lift them off the ground.  There are several variations on this method, some using rope to secure the injured individual almost as you would a backpack.

If you have the luxury of an assistant, you might consider placing your patient on a chair and carry using the front legs and back of the chair.  This constitutes a sitting “stretcher”.  No chair available?  By interlocking hands, 2 rescuers can make their own “seat” for a conscious victim.  Another two person carry involves one rescuer to wrap their arms around the victim’s chest from behind while the second rescuer (facing away from the patient) grabs the legs behind each knee.  This is done in a squatting position, using the leg muscles to lift the patien

With even more helpers, you can roll an unconscious patient first onto the knees and then lift as seen below:

A new product that should be considered as an investment by any family or survival group is the “bug-out cart” produced by the folks at Exodus Solutions.  The Emergency Evacuation Cart can handle about 450 pounds of payloads, has brakes, and has optional fabric panels set up to be Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) compatible.  As such, it allows its use as a stretcher for even the heaviest victim while freeing hands (and back) for handling transport.  I saw children rolling adults around on the Emergency Evacuation Cart with ease at a recent survival expo in Nevada. There are various options available to customize it to your needs. You can see a video on the Exodus cart here:

There are many other techniques used to transport people when injured.  Check out this slideshow for more information:

Important to remember when pulling or carrying a person is the simple acronym:  B.A.C.K.

Back Straight – your muscles and discs can handle more load safely when the back is straight.

Avoid Twisting – joints can be damaged when twisting.

Close to body – reaching to pick up a load causes more strain on muscles and joints.

Keep Stable – the more rotation and jerking, the more pressure on your discs and muscles.

Difficult decisions will have to be made when there are no ambulances or EMTs to take an injured or ill person to professional medical care.  Careful evaluation of the situation will be required when YOU are the end of the line when it comes to the medical well-being of your people.

Joe Alton, MD aka Dr. Bones

Joe Alton MD

For more on patient transport and 100 other medical topics in survival scenarios, check out our 700 page third edition of the Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Medical Help is Not on the Way, available at or on this website!

Hey, don’t forget to check out our entire line of quality medical kits and individual supplies at Also, our Book Excellence Award-winning 700-page SURVIVAL MEDICINE HANDBOOK: THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE FOR WHEN HELP IS NOT ON THE WAY is now available in black and white on Amazon and in color and color spiral-bound versions at

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