The assumption we make around the SurviveLA compound is that in a large scale emergency, such as an earthquake, we’ll be on our own for a while. Anyone who has been unlucky enough to visit the hospital emergency rooms of Los Angeles or any big city, even during non-peak hours, knows that your sorry ass often ends up on a stretcher parked in a forlorn hallway waiting for hours for a distracted and overworked doctor. Which is why, once again, we’ve relied on the world of mountaineering to inform our choice of first aid supplies. The assumption with a first aid kit in the wilderness is that it will be quite a while before you can be reached by a paramedic.
But first some disclaimers – we are not medical experts here, and this first aid kit is in a “first draft” status. We welcome any suggestions for items that should be included. We have copied this list (and added a few things) from the book Mountaineering The Freedom of the Hills.
Adhesive bandages – six 1-inch
Butterfly bandages – three, in various sizes
Sterile gauze pads – four 4-inch b 4-inch
Carlisle dressing or sanitary napkin – one 4-inch (note sanitary napkins are much cheaper and make excellent bandages and provide some low-brow humor potential to cheer up the patient who may find themselves with a sanitary napkin duct-taped to their forehead)
Nonadherent dressings – two 4-inch by 4-inch
Self-adhering roller bandages – two rolls 2-inch width by 5 yards
SAM splint – one
Athletic tape – one roll, 2-inch wide
Triangular bandages – two 36 inch by 36 inch by 52 inch for slings (large bandanas will do)
Moleskin or Molefoam – 4-inch to 6-inch square for blisters
Tincture of benzoin – One 0.5 ounce bottle – to keep tape sticking and to protect skin
Providine iodine swabs – two packages
Alcohol or soap pads – three packages
Sugar packets – to treat diabetes or hypoglycemia intervention
anaplasmosis (epinephrine) kit (EpiPen) – for people with severe allergies
Elastic bandage – one 2-inch width to wrap sprains or compress injured area
Plastic bag – for contaminated items
Breathing bearier – for administering CPR – we have one on our key chain that the Red Cross sells, but note that you will need to take a CPR class in order to know how to administer CPR
Duct tape – a wonder product, cheaper than medical tape – use it to adhere bandages, deal with blisters and a host of other things
Any prescription medications that you take
Syringe – for cleaning out wounds – you can also improvise this with a water bottle
If you already have a first aid kit you can pimp it out with a few of these items. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of large bandage material such as the sanitary napkins. One acquaintance of ours who was unlucky enough to have been severely cut by falling glass in the Northridge quake stumbled around bleeding for hours while her friends could only find small band-aids. Also, just because you have these items does not mean that you know how to use them. The Red Cross offers low-cost first aid and CPR classes but one thing to remember about Red Cross classes is that they assume that you have access to the emergency medical system and that the first aid you deliver is to stabilize the patient before the paramedics arrive. The Wilderness First Aid Course Inc. offers a more comprehensive first aid class that assumes that it will be awhile before your ass is swooped up in the little red paramedic wagon.
We keep these items in our grab and go bags and once again, this is a first stab at a kit. An anesthesiologist we have hiked with in the past carries a larger first aid kit full of potentially recreational prescription drugs and she’s more than prepared to do some fairly gruesome field surgery and appetite-suppressing improvised dentistry. They’ll be much more on the first aid topic in future post and until that time we welcome comments and suggestions.