No matter who you are and where you’re living, being prepared for a natural disaster is something that you should be concerned with. Major disasters happen all the time, many without much warning.
One of the most important things that you can do to prepare is to have a solid first-aid kit.
There’s no doubt that natural disasters cause injuries and illnesses every day across the globe. When medical emergencies happen in non-disaster situations, calling 911 is a realistic option. The thing is, in the aftermath of a major disaster, emergency services are often bogged down from the sheer volume of incidents that they need to respond to.
If you get injured or come across someone else who is having a medical emergency, you may be the only person available to deal with the situation. It’s up to YOU to be prepared.
So how can you be better prepared for the next catastrophe? Let’s first look at some natural disasters in recent history and see what types of injuries were the most common. After that, we can get into the specifics of how to put together a solid disaster first-aid kit.
Ready? Let’s get into it…
So before we build an emergency preparedness first-aid kit, we need to look at what injuries we should be prepared for. In a natural disaster, while injuries and illnesses of all kinds are possible, certain injuries are more likely than others. Since it’s not realistic to prepare for EVERY possible situation, we have to boil it down to what incidents are the most likely to happen and prepare for them.
Some of the biggest natural disasters in recent history in the U.S. include: Hurricane Katrina (2005, 1833 fatalities), Hurricane Sandy (2012, 117 fatalities), and the Midwest Tornado Outbreak (2011, 348 fatalities). While these are some of the biggest natural disasters, there are many others in recent history that have had an impact such as earthquakes, fires, and flooding. Depending on your location, certain disasters will be more likely than others. Check out this handy map of the U.S. that shows the locations of most major natural disasters.
Every major brings along a slew of medical emergencies.
Let’s take a closer look at some common injuries and illnesses from Hurricane Katrina. According to one CDC study, more than half of the patients (57%) seen by hospitals were treated for illnesses (the most common being gastrointestinal illnesses such as nausea and diarrhea, acute respiratory illness, and skin infection/rash illness) and less than 40% of the patients were seen for traumatic injuries. This goes to show how important it is to not only have a solid trauma kit, but to also have a good selection of medicines in your first-aid kit! Also, don’t forget to keep updated on your vaccinations. The same study showed that over 1300 patients had to be given tetanus vaccinations! Additionally, having the equipment necessary to clean wounds thoroughly is important in a disaster first-aid kit.
With Hurricane Sandy, the most common cause of death according to another study done by the CDC, was drowning. While there aren’t a lot of things you can pack in a first-aid kit that can treat drowning, this shows how important it is to know CPR! Secondary to drowning, was trauma from getting cuts, being crushed, or struck by debris. Having the medical gear necessary to deal with major trauma is very important in a disaster setting.
With tornadoes, traumatic injuries are highly likely. During the tornado outbreak of 2011, the leading cause of death (95%) according to the CDC was multi-system trauma. Make sure your trauma kit is equipped to handle major traumatic injuries. Another thing to be aware of is the danger of fungal infections which can occur after sustaining major wounds. Wound cleaning and overall hygiene is very important following a major disaster! Wash your hands often and make sure you use gloves when treating yourself or others.
While looking at these statistics shows us some of the main medical situations to be prepared for, there are also many secondary concerns. For example, many natural disasters leave homes completely ruined, or at least without power and/or water. You need to consider the fact that you may be without heat in the winter or without cooling in the summer. You may not have immediate access to drinking water. Make sure your first-aid kit is equipped to handle these “secondary” concerns.
Phew! That was a lot of info! Feeling smarter yet?
Let’s get into the specifics of building a disaster first-aid kit.
First, remember that this first-aid kit is probably not going to be very lightweight and compact. A dedicated disaster first-aid kit will be closer the size of a small backpack rather than a pocket sized pouch. You’re not going to be taking this kit camping or keeping it in your vehicle. Most likely, the best place to keep a disaster first-aid kit will be in your house or apartment.
The list below is a guideline for your disaster first-aid kit. If you have a family or are in a highly populated area, you will probably want to stock a high quantity of the items listed. On the other hand, if you live by yourself or are in a more rural setting, you may decide to keep your kit on the smaller side and only stock a limited quantity of the following items. Consider your situation, and make an informed decision.
As you might have guessed, a good place to start is to have the 10 items that should be in every first-aid kit. Also, if you’ve read my previous post about priority gear to have in a first-aid kit, you’ll already be aware of many of the additional items that I am going to list here.
- Tourniquet (ideally more than 1)
- Gauze (lots of gauze! If you have space left over after stocking your kit, add more gauze)
- Tape (multiple rolls)
- Diphenhydramine (multiple doses, consider packing child doses as well)
- Ibuprofen (multiple doses, consider packing child doses as well)
- Aspirin (multiple doses, consider packing child doses as well)
- Antibiotic ointment (not individual packets; get a decent sized tube)
- Gloves (several pairs, non-latex)
- Tweezers (not the garbage plastic ones, get real ones)
- Safety pins (several)
Disaster Kit Additions:
- QuikClot gauze (z-fold gauze, not the powder)
- Triangle bandages (several)
- Band-aids of several sizes
- Trauma shears
- SAM Splint
- Syringe (30cc or bigger for wound cleaning)
- Betadine or Iodine (8 oz. minimum)
- Emergency mylar blanket (several; there will be shock victims)
- CPR mask
- Dust mask/N95 mask
- Cold pack
- Paper and pencil
- Antiseptic wipes (take every precaution to avoid infection)
- Headlamp (with extra batteries; glowsticks also come in handy for hands-free light)
- Anti-nausea meds (e.g. Meclizine)
- Anti-diarrhea meds (e.g. Diamode)
- Burn cream (e.g. Water-Jel)
- Skin irritation cream (e.g. Hydrocortisone cream)
- Electrolytes packets (e.g. Gatorade)
- Candy or something high in sugar (for diabetic emergencies)
- Emergency dental kit (filling repair, numbing cream)
- Supply of your prescription meds (7-day supply minimum)
- First-Aid reference guide
- Triage tags (if you know what you’re doing)
- Assessment tools such as a stethoscope and BP cuff (if you know what you’re doing)
Now, I know I say this in almost every article I post, but GET SOME TRAINING! Training and knowledge trump a well-stocked first-aid kit every single time.
Disasters happen. Be prepared.