Emergency First Aid
Many of us start out wanting a firearm for self-defense or hunting. We then move on to training, competitions, weekly practice at the range, and dry-fire practice. The question always remains, what are we preparing for? For a great many of Americans, we are aware of the dangers of violent encounters. We carry firearms to keep our families safe in public and at home. We are fully aware that most dynamic critical incidence are over in seconds, when the police are minutes away. Yet we ignore the need for emergency first aid.
What often gets overlooked, is that the police are not the only one’s minutes away. Medical help is also minutes away, and those minutes can cost lives. Just as it is important to prepare how to respond during the violent encounter, it is probably even more important to prepare for what happens afterwards. A firearm will never be a shield against violence. It will not save you or your family from injury.
This is a large part of the reason why so many firearm courses teach conflict avoidance, situational awareness, the legality of using a firearm, defensive shooting, and how to respond in the aftermath. What most of these courses are missing is the emergency first aid that can save lives. Take for example two identical calls to 911. Imagine the same scenario, where everything is the same. The response time, the steps taken to save the life, and the same amount of time to reach the hospital. One patient dies and one lives, what is the real difference?
Chief firearms instructor and EMS worker Michael Martin describe the difference as what the bystanders do prior to EMS arrival. In his book “Emergency First Aid Fundamentals”, Mr. Martin goes in great detail about how to access, prep, and treat various kinds of injuries. Including injuries from violent encounters, like gunshots. Imagine for a second being outside a store and you are attacked by a random shooter. Your training kicks in and you successfully end the threat.
You then turn and find a loved one or even a random person was shot next to you. How would you respond? How long could you keep that person alive? One of the biggest differences between life and death happens while waiting for paramedics to arrive. Even at the gun range, you are 500 times more likely to run across a person having a heart attack. Then a person with a gunshot wound, according to Mr. Martin. Meaning that while you are preparing to keep your family safe from violent encounters, many of us will be letting them die from injuries.
If your concern really is how to keep your family safe. Then you must prepare for all the aspects you could be facing. You are way more likely to have a family medical emergency than you are to experience a violent encounter. Even in a higher-risk situation like going to the range. The question is do you want to be the screaming parent, husband, wife, or sibling yelling for help, or the one giving the help?
Does it Really Help?
While many Americans have taken a CPR class at some point in their lives. Most would not know how to deal with a sucking chest wound, a diabetic reaction, a broken bone, or a heart attack. Of course, the first step is always to call 911 and then wait until EMS arrives. Even if EMS arrived in under 5 minutes, it would feel like an eternity. That wait time can be the difference between life or death for our loved ones. As a result, their life is literally in our hands.
Doing something as simple as giving CPR to someone whose heart has stopped. Can keep the oxygen flowing in their bloodstream. If it takes over 4 minutes for EMS to get on the scene, they must perform CPR for 2 minutes before using electric shocks that can get the heart going again. That is something that all of us are capable of doing, which can save time and our loved one’s life.There is never a guarantee when it comes to saving someone’s life. There is almost always a guarantee if we don’t get medical help when needed they will die. Which is why learning even basic emergency first aid is so important.
Unless you are new to firearms, you have likely heard the term everyday carry (EDC). This is normally referred to as what you carry on your person whenever you leave the home. Most CCW holders have a specific firearm, flashlight, and less lethal option that they carry every day. Many don’t think about the importance of a medical kit, even though it will likely be needed long before a firearm will.
Why Include a Medical Kit with your EDC?
Just recently a mother got into a confrontation with a neighbor in Detroit. The confrontation led to one party grabbing a hammer and attempting to injure or kill the other. The mother being licensed to legally carry a firearm. She drew her firearm and fired multiple shots in the direction of the neighbor.
Unfortunately, the bullets had penetrated her car and hit her 1yr old daughter in her car seat. It wasn’t until the police arrived on the scene that they were able to determine the daughter was in fact a victim of a gunshot wound. It is just one of the many mistakes people can make when our minds fall prey to the fight or flight responses. She failed to follow the simple rule of firearm safety. Know your target and what’s beyond. The emergency first aid they provided went a long to helping her survive until EMS arrived.
Now this child has listed in critical condition and her fate is still unknown. One thing that is clear, is the faster the child received medical attention the higher her chance of survival is. The point being, if you are willing to carry something to defend your life, then you should be carrying something that can save a life as well. Keeping in mind an emergency first aid kit full of band aids will probably not be enough to help in more severe cases.
Medical kits are not all cut from the same cloth. For most of us, we wouldn’t even know what we need in one. Not to mention most pre-made trauma kits don’t have everything we could us. For example, many kits won’t have a tourniquet or other trauma items such as quick clot to stop bleeding.
Then of course there is the question of what is realistic to carry? It is unlikely that most people will be walking around with an automated external defibrillator (AED) or a large medical kit. That can check heart rhythms and provide an electric shock to patients having a heart attack. Just like a firearm, you must ask yourself, how do you plan to carry a med kit and how to carry it. If the answer is your car, then you can carry a lot more equipment. However, if you want to carry it on your person for emergencies. Then you will be looking for something a lot smaller emergency first aid kit, with more of the basic equipment you will need.
That leaves the question, would it be better to buy everything piece by piece or a pre-made kit. My answer to that would be to buy a quality pre-made kit and add specific items to it. For example, according to Mr. Martin a small kit should include:
- Individual packs of Benadryl
- Individual packs of baby aspirin
- Alcohol preps
- Triple antibiotic ointment
- Tegaderm gel bandage
- Compressed gauze
- Nitrile gloves
- Surgical sponges
- Quick Clot sponge
- Oral rehydration salts
If you are willing to defend yourself and your loved ones with a firearm. Then at a minimum, you should also be willing to save their lives by learning some basic emergency first aid procedures. If you are not sure where to start, buy Michael Martins book, or take the e-learning course on this site. Often the red cross will host classes and training. Unfortunately, during a pandemic in person classes can be hard to find at times.
Keeping in mind that it is much more likely that you will need to save a life rather than take one. Being partially prepared can be the one regret you never get to take back. This is also something the USCCA is taking very seriously by giving it’s platinum members free access to the emergency first aid fundamentals course.
If there is nothing you aren’t willing to do to protect your family. Then don’t stop short, thinking owning a firearm has made them safe. There are many aspects beyond firearms and medical treatments that are needed to keep a family safe. Many people say they will do anything but very few will take the steps needed to protect them. In that aspect, it is like firearms training. If you are willing to purchase a firearm, are you willing to get training? Are you willing to train realistically or just stand still and shoot at a stationary target? Owning a firearm or a medical kit does very little to keep your family safe without training.