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Thursday, July 5, 2018

The IFAK

One of the basic prepper tools is a first aid kit. "First aid" covers almost all medical treatment given before a medical professional is involved, so it's a vague term; for some people with limited training first aid is the box of bandages and hydrogen peroxide in the medicine cabinet, while others carry a bag full of supplies suitable for responding to major trauma. Wherever you fall in the spectrum between those two extremes, an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) should be on your list of preps. Ideally, an IFAK should always be within reach, but keeping it in a desk drawer or glove box is better than not having one at all.

Contents
The concept of an IFAK came from the military, so a lot of the “tactical” preppers think that is the only way to go. Giving a soldier the means to treat wounds before a medic could get to him increases that soldier's chances of survival, but we're not all soldiers. For those of us who don't spend our days in a combat zone, the contents of an IFAK will change according to our training, budget, and perceived threats. More on that later.

During WW2 first aid kits were large and carried by a medic, someone with limited medical training. The contents and use of that type of kit can be found here, and some of the treatments are outdated or illegal today. (Can you imagine having to explain Morphine injectors to a cop at a traffic stop?) Fast-forward to the current wars and combat operations, and every soldier carries his own first aid kit for use on himself or another soldier. The contents of current kits varies by branch, so I'll break them down that way.

Army
  • Tourniquet, Combat Application
  • Elastic bandage
  • Gauze bandage, 4”x4”
  • 2” surgical tape, 6' roll
  • 4 exam gloves
  • Nasopharyngeal airway

Air Force
  • 2 Israeli bandages
  • 2 Gauze bandages, 4.5” x 148”
  • EMS shears
  • Nasopharyngeal airway
  • Surgical tape, 1”x 360”

USMC
  • 2 Tourni-Kwik tourniquets
  • 2 “H” compression bandages w/ 8”x10” pad
  • 2 Gauze bandages, 4.5”x148”
  • 5 Bandaids, 2”x4.5”
  • 10 Bandaids 3/4”x3”
  • 2 Triangular bandages 40”x40”x56”
  • Waterproof tape, 2”x100”
  • Burn dressing, Water-Jel, 4”x16”
  • 8 Antibacterial ointment packets
  • ½ oz bottle of Povidone-iodine solution
  • 10 water purification tablets, Katadyn Micropur brand

As you can see, the various branches have tailored their kits to meet the injuries they expect to see with a few basics common to all three. Compression bandages are good at stopping bleeding from wounds, surgical tape is handy in a lot of ways, and gauze bandages have been used for at least a century on the battlefield. Consider this if you're trying to put together a kit of your own, or if you're modifying a kit, rather than buying a pre-packed kit: you want to have what you think you'll need and have the training to use. For example, the nasopharyngeal airways are tricky to use and come in a variety of sizes.

The $30 IFAK Challenge
I have challenged the other authors here to put together a cheap ($30) IFAK to see what each of us thinks is most important to have at hand on a daily basis, so expect to see a few articles about them in the near future. My build will be posted next week, since I wanted to get this bit of comparison/history written first.

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