Emergency Preparedness and Field First Aid for Those Who Love the Outdoors

INTRODUCTION:

I’m a registered First Responder and a proud volunteer of a respected Search and Rescue (SAR) Team. Our members all hope we can have a positive effect on the person(s) that need us. We do our best to ensure we are prepared, trained, safe, and efficient. None of which, can be accomplished without a plan of action. We take our safety as well as the victims’ seriously. Notice, I listed prepared first. Ultimately, the victims’ well being is not based on just SAR’S effectiveness. It is also based on the victims’ initial action or inaction prior to an emergency. Because of this, I will start with some basics on emergency preparedness. This article will not be able to fully encompass all possibilities that can arise. However, I hope to highlight some key areas that I hope will keep all of you safe out on the woods and water.

 

EMERGENCY PREPARDNESS PRIOR TO GOING AFIELD.

The DNR and sports groups often advise sportsman to let somebody know where you’re going and when you will be back. Many of our pursuits are solo pursuits. These can be remote areas off trails and roads. It is important to realize that those that may need to come find you may not intimately know where you really are. For example, I often hunt more then ½ mile off of any trail or path. So I leave an aerial photo with gps coordinates on the refrigerator. I can then let my family know I’m on the hwy 38 stand for example. Or when hunting from an elevated stand, send your hunting buddy a txt that says, “Up and harnessed.” When done hunting, send a txt that says, “down, walking out.”

Another good precaution is to be aware of how much the temperature changes in the fall. Hunters need to prepare for 20-30 degree temperature changes. We all sweat some when pursuing game. Being underdressed or overdressed and becoming lost, can quickly lead to life threatening hypothermia.

Volumes on survival tactics have been written on what to do when lost in the woods. However, I think it best to prepare properly to prevent getting lost. At one time or another, most sportsmen undergo a “slightly turned around,” episode. Usually, when it is all said and done; having proper essentials on your person can reduce or prevent this likelihood. I’ve listed below a few essentials I feel are a must have before entering the woods. Filter through them and see if you get some ideas on how to balance the portability and functionality of your gear. It is more likely one will actually carry gear if it is light weight and balanced. If you don’t have it, you can’t use it!

 

  1. Compass and glow sticks: If you can’t see your compass you can’t use it…Batteries and flashlights can fail. Glow sticks help you be visible to rescuers and have a long glow time

  2. GPS: remember to mark your entry point, and carry extra charged batteries. Learn to mark a waypoint i.e. (your entry point, truck, etc.). AND learn how to use the gps to go to a way point before you put false trust in your gps unit

  3. Flint/Steel and Dryer lint mixed with white petroleum jelly. You can fit a lot in one medicine bottle. Also, the petroleum jelly will keep the combustible dryer lint burning longer allowing less than ideal tinder to start burning

  4. Water purification tablets and coffee filters: water may have undesirable sediment but not be dangerous after purification

  5. 2-LED head lights: Extra batteries

  6. 2 water bottles: Fill first, to ward off dehydration and can be used to get water and for adequate purification time

  7. Packet of Gatorade/electrolyte powder: Add for flavor after purification and also helps prevent cramping and muscle weakness

  8. 20 feet of parachute cord: small diameter multiple uses

  9. 2-55 gallon black plastic contractor bags: Can be cut, one under, one over=emergency shelter. Most importantly, it provides a critical moisture barrier

  10. Staying warm or cool uses calories: MRE’s account for this: Minimally, have snacks that have slow digesting and quick digesting ingredients

  11. Some type of wind stop layer for your upper body. They are thin and pack nicely

  12. First Aid Kit: Should contain carefully selected key items

 

Field First Aid For The Outdoor Enthusiast

It would be unlikely to have on your person all first aid supplies that might be needed in the field. However, being adaptable and using what we would normally have on our person to provide basic field first aid can have a positive effect on reducing further injury, preventing shock, and reducing pain for the victim. Ideally, we would have some first aid supplies with us as part of our emergency preparedness plan. I’ll first describe what I carry for first aid and why. The few items I carry in my first aid kit are designed to address soft tissue injuries and help secure various splints.

  1. Band-Aids – keeps dirt and bacteria out of wounds and stops insignificant bleeding

  2. Sterile gauze pads – a little more absorption for slightly heavier bleeding and larger wounds

  3. Antibiotic Cream – Meant for superficial external skin injuries

  4. Heavy Flow Unscented Maxi pad – first layer for traumatic heavy bleeding injuries

  5. Self-adhering gauze role – this is for wrapping around dressing and holding band-aids, gauze, and maxi pads in place while maintaining direct pressure on the wounds.

  6. Self-Adhering Ace Bandage - It is very useful when supporting a twisted ankle, hurt wrists, twisted knees, and final wrap to put over all wound dressings.

First aid is based on some basic principles and critical care goals. Stop bleeding, immobilize, prevent further injury, and watch for shock. Bleeding occurs when injuries occur to soft tissue. Putting pressure on the injury site can generally stop bleeding. Spurting blood injuries require pressure on the appropriate artery above (Between the heart and the injury) and on the injury site. For example, if an injury to the hand, wrist, forearm is spurting blood? Know where the brachial artery is and how to put pressure on the wound and the artery.

Low extremity injuries that are spurting blood require us to know where the femoral artery is and how to put pressure on it.

Injuries to bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons can be addressed with some simple rules of thumb. Immobilize the injury. This can be done with a shirtsleeve, safety harness strap, or self-adhering ace bandage. Be adaptive and not afraid. If a finger or toe is injured, put a thin pad between the injured appendage and the next finger or next toe. If a leg bone injury is suspected, just pad between the legs and splint to the other limb. Leg and arm bone injuries should be immobilized above and below the injury site.

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If an ankle injury is suspected, you can make a soft splint out of folded jacket, pants, towel etc Wrap around the ankle and secure with some type of binder. Make sure the heel is supported as well to prevent ankle from being able to move.

Lets review the major goals of emergency first aid. Stop bleeding, immobilize, prevent further injury, and watch for shock. Rather then knowing all the signs of shock. It is best to remember to keep the victim comfortable, and warm, and elevate the legs to help prevent shock. Elevating any injury is only advised when the cause of the injury wasn’t serious enough to damage the spine or neck. Do not move the victim from the position originally found in if a spine or neck injury is suspected.

In closing, having an emergency plan, choosing to put safety ahead of your adventure, and understanding basic field first aid can improve the quality and enjoyment of your outdoor pursuits today and for years to come.