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Each year, millions of people are affected by disasters (whether man-made or natural), with the result of the destruction and devastation of a disaster leaving injuries, and sometimes fatalities. With the tremendous amount of risks, hazards and injuries that come with disasters knowing some basic emergency first-aid skills will not only help immediate issues, but will also help someone’s physical, and mental health, in the long run as a community recovers.
Despite the fact that every state in the US is at risk of a disaster, only about half of the American population is prepared for an emergency. This means that there are a number of people out there right now that don’t even have a plan or enough food and water to get their family by for the next couple days if an emergency struck tomorrow.
When the utilities are cut out and grocery store shelves are empty, they’re left with nothing to do but panic. The scary part is, disasters are becoming more common, and this was shown in 2017, which went down as the costliest year on record for natural disasters in the United States.
Although you can’t stop disasters from occurring, you can prepare yourself for them by learning new survival skills, especially those which relate to the common causes of serious injury and fatalities. That way, if emergency responders can’t reach you in time in dire situations, you’ll be able to improvise and help yourself, and others, until they arrive to take over. Remember, emergencies are called emergencies for a reason — they’re unexpected.
Staying prepared won’t only help you be more prepared, it’ll also make you more capable of dealing with the unknown, and certainly when it comes to providing emergency first-aid. With that in mind, here are some emergency first-aid skills and specifics to consider that can help you and your family prepare for the unexpected:
One of the most important emergency first-aid skills is learning to deal with blood loss. Lose too much and you will die. Often, it can take some before first responders and emergency services will be able to arrive to assist, but before that time comes, you might mean the difference between life and death if you are caring for someone that is rapidly losing blood.
When it comes to blood loss, there are all different kinds of emergency first-aid treatments that range from minor cuts to large gashes. In either case, your number one priority is to stop the bleeding as soon as possible and clean the infected area. So after washing your hands and putting on gloves, make sure you have the person you’re attending to lie down on their back (unless the wound is located there) to elevate blood flow. After that, you can begin cleaning the area and remove any dirt, debris, and dry blood from the area – but leave any large objects that are penetrating through the skin.
If you think you’ll have a hard time remembering those steps, in an emergency first-aid situation just think of “RICE”:
Remembering that acronym will also remind you to apply pressure with a clean cloth for 20 minutes without looking to see if the bleeding has stopped, or slowed down.
If the bleeding doesn’t stop, then you might have to apply more pressure to the artery itself. If you don’t have the stomach for this sight, find someone else who can further assist you – especially if someone’s life is on the line. For the arms, the pressure points are just above the elbow region and below the armpits. For the legs, however, you can find the pressure points directly behind the knee. Once you’ve stopped the bleeding, continue to apply pressure to the wound until it’s wrapped up. Then you can turn attention to other injuries the person may have sustained.
Disaster season is never too far away, and with it comes a herd of problems. These problems, however, aren’t just physical, they’re also mental as well. In 2014, for example, about 43.6 million Americans 18-years or older experienced some form of mental health problems. According to Bradley University, problems that arose from stress, anxiety, and of course, trauma from experiencing catastrophic events like natural disasters firsthand.
Though this might require a little more training, being able to help a victim mentally in an emergency first-aid situation is just as rewarding as being able to help them physically. That’s because disasters (like Hurricane Katrina) can have intense and often traumatic impacts on both the individuals and communities long after the event itself has passed. That’s why it’s important to recognize certain signs when it comes to mental health.
In the immediate aftermath of a human-made or natural disaster, for example, the first reaction is usually a combination of shock and denial, especially if the event damaged an entire community within a matter of seconds. This is what can make picking up the pieces (calling insurance companies, finding temporary housing, and gathering your family) challenging for some individuals.
Shock, however, is what typically has a lasting effect on individuals once they realize they’ve lost all their material possessions (boat, car, house, photo albums, and other personal belongings). The symptoms for both witnesses and first responders are often the same and result in PTSD, depression, anxiety, and psychological health conditions. This means that during the recovery process, you could even find yourself helping emergency responders overcome some of their mental health problems. You aren’t trained in this area, don’t worry. Just providing a resource for an individual to turn to is enough to get them on the right path to recovery.
According to the Center for Disease and Prevention, drowning is the third leading cause of death from unintentional injury worldwide, accounting for 7 percent of all injury-related deaths. If an active drowning occurs during a disaster, the first thing you’d want to do is contact emergency responders – but only if they’re nearby. If they aren’t able to get there in time, the next step is to take emergency first-aid action. When a person is drowning, they might not always have enough oxygen to yell for help, so being aware of the visual signs for help (flailing arms and submerging head) is key, especially if the disaster is a hurricane or tornado.
When approaching a victim, make sure you maintain a safe distance, because if they’re strong enough, they could bring you down as well while fighting for oxygen. If this does happen, stay calm and pull away from the victim by submerging yourself. In time, the victim will release you after realizing they’re sinking further down. If the victim isn’t responding or is unconscious, check their vital signs before performing emergency first-aid CPR.
Health emergencies can be terrifying for anyone (especially if you didn’t plan for them), but if you’re prepared and react quickly enough, you can prevent further injuries from happening or even save someone’s life. Luckily, getting yourself familiar with certain techniques (like the ones listed above) can someday allow you to care for a victim shortly after an emergency, or even care for yourself.
Have you taken any courses in first-aid, or have you found any other first-aid skills that are useful to know in a disaster situation? Let us know in the comments section below.
This post was contributed by Herman Davis loves being active and finds any reason to go outside. Follow him on Twitter at @Davis241. If you are interested in submitting a guest post into The Prepping Guide, get in touch with us through our contact form over at our Submissions Page.