Thursday, May 16, 2019

Another Side of the First Aid Kit

This is not a strictly flood-related post, but the idea was sparked by recent events caused in part by the flooding and reconstruction in my state I'm working a lot of overtime trying to take care of customers that have been left without their normal provider due to the flooding.

Like most preppers, I carry a first aid kit in my car. I generally transfer it to my work truck when I'm going to be away from my normal location, and it has been used a time or two, most recently when I saw a rental truck (straight truck, the type Penske and Ryder offer) flip over after the driver failed to slow down for a road construction site. He slammed into the car behind me, punting it into the ditch, before flipping the truck onto its side about four feet from my work truck. I stopped to render aid, called 911 as I was approaching the truck, and with the help of a few others made sure everyone was safe enough to wait for the EMTs and police to show up. Seatbelts and airbags did their job well with no one suffering any major injuries, and the EMTs were there within a very few minutes.

Revising my FAK
Adrenaline and Monday mornings don't mix well, so I sat and thought about things for a while before continuing with my day: I have my kit, and know how to use everything in it. Some of that knowledge is from training, but most of it is from experience. I've also recently down-sized the kit I keep in my vehicle. The old one was the size of a kid's book bag or small backpack and it just aged out after bouncing around for 20 years in various vehicles. I still have the basics, but I left out things that are better suited for a static kit.
  • I've never needed the blood pressure cuff in 20 years, so it got moved to the house kit.
  • Another item to go were the medium-sized gauze pads. Every wound I've run across has been either too little or too big for them, so I only carry the small 2”x2” and the large 6”x6” pads now.
  • Surgical tape replaced the cohesive bandage wrap. It takes up less space and fulfills the same role, especially in an emergency use. The CoBan is better suited for recovery or other long-term uses.
  • I removed a lot of things that I carried for palliative care, like instant ice packs and burn gels, since I don't have the same job that I did when I first assembled my kit. I stripped it down to emergency items, and sprains/small burns aren't really an emergency.
A Forgotten Necessity
Sitting there going through my kit, I noticed one glaring omission: I didn't have any biohazard bags. Vinyl gloves and other expendable items that come into contact with bodily fluids need to be properly disposed for the safety of everyone that may handle them. Blood-borne pathogen is a class all by itself, as are universal precautions (face masks, gloves, and eye protection when dealing with sick or injured people), but we need to make sure we're not spreading anything nasty after using our kits.

Biohazard bags are the red plastic bags you'll see in hospital rooms. They will have the word “Biohazard” on them and usually the international symbol for infectious waste. They are there for holding the waste generated by treating disease or injury until it can be collected and safely destroyed.

Why biohazard bags? If you're responding to an injury of a stranger, you have no way of knowing what special bugs they may be harboring. AIDs, herpes (it used to be more worrisome), MERS, hepatitis, and a long list of other easily transmitted diseases are becoming more common in the US and they can all mess up your future plans.

Everything in your kit has to be considered expendable. Don't get attached to a favorite pair of scissors, because it will probably have to be discarded after one use. Once used it all goes into the bag, which gets sealed and properly disposed of.

Disposal of the bags is another problem. When I have helped at accident scenes, I've given my sealed biohazard bags to the EMTs or ambulance crew before they leave. They're going to the nearest hospital anyway, and hospitals have procedures in place for dealing with that. I don't want to carry it around any longer than I have to, but most emergency rooms will take it off your hands if you get stuck with the bag.

Long-term treatment of injuries and disease creates a lot of waste. As an example, one of the hospitals within an hour of where I live has a specialized ward for treating Ebola patients. A few years ago they had three patients shipped in from Africa (American aid workers who got infected) and they generated 3700 pounds of contaminated waste that cost over a million dollars to dispose of. (I don't want to know who got stuck with the bills for their actual treatment; I'm trying to keep my blood pressure down.)

Disposal usually consists of incineration. If you're on your own and have a few bags full of contaminated waste, build a good pyre and make sure everything organic gets burnt to ashes. Any metal pieces will be sterilized by the heat of a prolonged fire, so make sure your pyre is hot and large enough to ensure everything gets burnt. Don't just toss the bag onto a campfire! You want to use a concentrated, hot fire to make sure everything burns without being carried away in the smoke.

Alternate methods of disposal include deep burial, high-pressure steam (autoclave) cleaning, or lots of strong bleach. If there is anything nasty running around, like plague or one of the various “foreign” diseases, I'd opt for the fire.

Carry your first aid kit, know how to use what you carry, and know how to dispose of the waste after you've used it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Chaplain Tim. You pointed out one glaring omission from both of the kits in my cars. I don't have disposable gloves in either one of the. A dumb mistake, but it could have been a serious problem, if I had been involved in treating someone carrying a communicable disease. This will be fixed quickly. Again, thanks.


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