Many municipality budgets are being stretched thin and First Responder services are being affected in ways that aren’t always made known to the general public. I was at my local range and I asked the manager if they had any trauma incidents since they opened. There were two. One accidental gunshot wound stemming from hot brass and a hand injury due to improper handling of a large-caliber revolver. In the first case, it took only five minutes for emergency medical to reach the scene. In the second, help didn’t arrive for fifteen minutes. In both cases, the manager said it seemed like an eternity before they got there.
Fortunately, the range has employees with medical training on site and, in both instances, they lived. Point being, if you truly want to be prepared, you can’t always rely on help getting there quickly. And, even in the five-minute example, the woman would have probably bled out if care wasn’t administered to buy time until the EMT’s arrived. Carrying your own IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) is good idea. Something that can handle wound trauma and not just a “Boo Boo Kit”.
I’m not going to cover Boo Boo Kits in-depth here because they’re pretty self-explanatory. Most experts recommend you build your own because pre-made kits are usually overpriced. And if purchased from unreliable sources, the kits can contain supplies that are poorly made crap and/or out-of-date. With that said, a seller that is universally trusted and receives good marks for service is ITS Tactical. Their ITS Boo Boo Kit is a good example of the things you should carry for simple First Aid.
The contents include:
(1) Triangle Bandage
(10) Band-Aid (6 Large, 4 Small)
(2) 3M Steri-Strips
(2) Povidone-Iodine Prep Pad
(2) Alcohol Prep Pad
(2) Triple Antibiotic
(2) Sting Relief Pad
(2) Burn Jel
(1) Moleskin (2” x 4” Strip)
(2) Lip Ointment
(2 pkgs. of 2 ea.) Electrolyte (Rehydration)
(2 pkgs. of 2 ea.) Ibuprofen (Inflammation, Soreness)
(2 pkgs. of 2 ea.) Non-Aspirin (Fevers)
(2 pkgs. of 1 ea.) Antihistamine (Allergic Reactions)
(2 pkgs. of 1 ea.) Anti-Diarrheal (Dehydration Prevention)
(2 pkgs. of 2 ea.) Aspirin (Heart Attack)
For more detail, click on the link to buy the ITS kit or use it as a guide to build your own.
For wound trauma, Band-Aids and Aspirin aren’t going to cut it. You can overdo it and most people do, but there are some critical items that any trauma kit should contain…
I list this first because gloves are critical to protect yourself against viruses such as hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) when treating someone other than yourself or a close family member. Nitrile gloves are preferred over latex because of their chemical resistance, their tendency to visibly rip when punctured, and to prevent possible latex allergies. They are also three times more puncture resistant than Latex. Having a bunch in your kit is a good idea. A back-up pair or three if you need them and some to give someone else if you have help and they don’t have gloves. Sticking them in every nook of your IFAK pouch ensures they are readily available when you’re pulling out supplies to provide treatment. Buy only medical Exam Grade gloves like the ones pictured below. Note that the gloves provided in pre-made kits are almost always size XL. If your hands are smaller, then buying gloves in a smaller size that actually fit would be a good idea.
If you have rapid uncontrolled blood loss, especially spurting blood from an artery, then applying a tourniquet to quickly cut off circulation and stop the bleeding is recommended because someone can bleed out in minutes in that scenario. The average human body only has 8 pints of blood with a loss of greater than 40% generally being fatal. It’s a myth that applying a tourniquet will absolutely cause loss of limb. The incidence of injury is very low with tourniquet times of two hours or less. If the bleeding is not severe, then foregoing the Tourniquet, applying pressure, and packing the wound (if not in the chest or abdomen) is the right treatment. More on that later.
The gold standards are SOFTT-W (SOF Tactical Tourniquet Wide) and CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet). They’ve had more use in the field and documented saves than any other. Wider is better in most cases so the SOFTT-W 1.5″ strap compresses more tissue area and provides better patient comfort than the CAT. The CAT is simpler and easier to apply one-handed although supposedly the new buckle design on the latest version of the SOFTT-W available direct from Tac Med Solutions has made it easier to use. I went with the SOFTT-W because it’s a little more compact for EDC when pre-staged using the ITS Fold method but you can’t go wrong with either.
Just make sure and buy yours from a trusted source. Tac Med solutions or ITS Tactical for the SOFTT-W and Dark Angel Medical for the CAT Gen 7.
Because arteries can recede back into the body when severed, placing the Tourniquet as high on the limb as possible is recommended (not just two inches above the wound). If the wound is in the hip, groin, or shoulder area, then that might not be possible. Packing the wound with a dressing with a clotting agent along with direct pressure may be the only way to control a major bleed in that area. Quikclot Combat Gauze is the most widely used product.
If the bleeding is significant but not severe enough to call for a tourniquet or hemostatic dressing, then a pressure bandage is a good option. The Israeli Bandage and the Olaes Modular Bandage are widely accepted as the best with the Israeli Bandage being the best for most EDC kits because of its size when stored. Both offer a blood absorbent dressing along with a stretch wrap and clip to secure it. The Olaes provides more features that the Israeli does not. Research both to decide what’s best for your kit.
A HALO chest seal dressing to treat a sucking chest wound is included in some pre-made kits and I’m adding one to mine. Other non-critical items would include a pair of medical shears to quickly remove clothing and to perform other cutting tasks. I’ve upgraded to Leatherman Raptor Shears but a cheap pair of disposable combat shears would do. A mouth-to-mouth mask for resuscitation. Regular gauze when blood clot agents or pressure bandages aren’t needed. Also, a small roll of Duck or Gorilla tape to secure a dressing or patch a small wound. And a mylar blanket to control body temperature to prevent shock.
Two of the best IFAK pouches are the D.A.R.K Pouch by Dark Angel Medical..
And the ITS ETA Trauma Kit Pouch by ITS Tactical.
Both come in different sizes and colors.
Hopefully this gives you a good idea of how to build your own kit. However, the best wisdom I can impart upon you is to get training. I took a local full day course given by ACT FAST MEDICAL TRAINING here in the Chicago area.
I wouldn’t have considered adding the Trauma items to my IFAK without the training I received and even the one day training wasn’t enough.
I want and need more. We invest hundreds of dollars on gear but many of us balk at spending a similar amount of money on skills training. Training that could save a life including our own. I urge everyone to think about training differently and make that investment in yourself. You’ll be glad you did.