A disaster can result in numerous injuries, to yourself or to those around you, including family, coworkers, and neighbors. Having an emergency first aid kit with the right equipment is essential for providing care to the injured in the hours and days to follow.
Disasters often create challenges for hospitals as well, which may be dealing with structural damage, difficulties in getting staff to the hospital, and a large influx of injured patients. As a result, an emergency first aid kit designed for use in a disaster must serve multiple purposes: 1) contain provisions for minor injuries and illnesses, 2) provide life-saving equipment for severe injuries, and 3) serve as a resource for longer-term issues, such as wound care or minor illnesses, when access to a hospital is limited.
Basics of a First Aid Kit
Commercially sold first aid kits provide a great starting point, but will require additional equipment to provide sufficient supplies in a disaster. Consider buying a large kit, or purchasing several smaller kits, and then supplementing with additional equipment and supplies as needed to build a kit that contains the following:
- Antiseptic wipes (BZK-based wipes; alcohol-based okay)
- Antibacterial ointment (e.g., bacitracin)
- First-aid cleansing pads with topical anesthetic
- Ibuprofen / other pain-relief medication
- Antihistamine to treat allergic reactions, and if necessary, epinephrine injector
- Aspirin (81 mg Chewable - for use in event of a heart attack)
- Cortisone cream or ointment
- Hand sanitizer (BKZ- or alcohol-based)
- Aloe vera gel (sun exposure relief), sunscreen for prevention!
- Antacid tablets
- Throat lozenges
- Eye wash solution
- Loperamide tablets (for diarrhea symptoms)
- Oral rehydration salts
- Activated charcoal
- Prescription medications, plus copies of prescriptions
- One instant cold compress
- Copies of prescription medications
Bandages and Trauma Care
- Assorted adhesive bandages (fabric preferred)
- Butterfly bandages / adhesive wound-closure strips
- Gauze pads (various sizes, e.g., 3”x3”, 4”x4”)
- Nonstick sterile pads
- Compress dressings (such as a large trauma pad, 5”x9”)
- Rolled, stretch-to-conform bandages
- Medical adhesive tape (10 yd. roll, min. 1" width)
- Triangular cravat bandages
- Elastic wrap
- Tongue blades or Finger splint(s)
- Hemostatic (blood-stopping) gauze
- Burn dressings (e.g., Hydrogel-based pads) or burn ointment
Tools and Equipment
- Splinter (fine-point) tweezers
- Safety pins
- Paramedic shears (blunt-tip scissors)
- Safety razor blade (or scalpel w/ #15 or #12 blade)
- Cotton-tipped swabs
- Standard oral thermometer
- Irrigation syringe with 18-gauge catheter
- Magnifying glass and/or reading glasses for detail work
- Medical / surgical gloves (nitrile preferred; avoid latex)
- CPR mask
- Duct tape (small roll)
- Small notepad with waterproof pencil or pen
- Medical waste bag (plus box for sharp items)
- Emergency heat-reflecting blanket
- Headlamp (preferred) or flashlight
Controlling bleeding in a severe wound requires a large supply of dressings and bandages, and even the use of a tourniquet. A bleeding control kit should include numerous triangular bandages which can be used for tourniquets or splinting, large stacks of 4”x4” gauze pads for dressing directly over wounds, and a large bag of roller gauze used for securing dressings or for packing directly into wounds with uncontrolled bleeding.
The gold standard for bleeding control includes a commercial tourniquet and hemostatic dressings, which can be added to the bleeding control supplies above.
The Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) is a Mil-Spec device that can be applied to a leg or arm with one hand and provides rapid bleeding control for extremities. Other tourniquets, such as the SWAT-T Tourniquet provide progressive compression through use of an elastic band that is stretched and wrapped around the victim’s extremity.
Hemostatic dressings are gauze dressings that have been impregnated with a clot forming mineral called kaolin. Placing a hemostatic dressing onto an external bleeding injury, or packing the dressing into a penetrating wound, speeds up the clotting process and reduces blood loss. Hemostatic dressings come in a variety of sizes, including pad, rolls, or Z-fold dressings. The longer rolls or dressings provide the ability care for external bleeds, and can also be used to pack penetrating wounds.
Wound care of injuries is important when medical care cannot be accessed or obtained. If an injury continues to bleed, the emphasis should be on stopping the bleeding, and no wound care is initially required. For injuries where bleeding is controlled, inspect the wound for infection every 4-6 hours, flush wound with clean water, and re-dress the injury. The presence of infection will require further medical evaluation and care, as a wound infection can result in life threatening septicemia (systemic infection).