In an emergency situation with our own family in a crisis situation, especially if TSHTF, I suspect each of us will use our own judgment as to our abilities, their injuries, and our access to emergency medical care. But definitely don’t take this statement as legal or medical advice as to what you should or should not do. I am neither a lawyer nor a doctor. There were some good suggestions in Verde's first aid post and in the comments regarding preparedness.
Once you've decided you need a first aid kit, you have to decide what you want. You can buy a ready-made first aid kit online or at a wide range of stores. The kits range in size and options from quite small for a pack to very complete for an office or industrial environment. (This might not be a bad investment for a group if you are forming strong community ties.) The other option is to assemble your own first aid kit using a prepared list of contents. Such lists can be found in any first aid book or on many websites.
If you build your own kit, you will have to find the supplies. Many of them are readily available in drugstores or the pharmacy section of the grocery store, as well as at the box stores. For some supplies, however, you may need to go to a medical supply store or order online from one of the many suppliers, or you may decide to omit those items.
You also need to decide if you want first aid supplies in multiple locations. We evaluated the times and places we might need supplies and assembled several kits.
- Vehicle: our primary first aid kit contains the complete list below and stays in our vehicle. We found a handy container at a box store that holds all of it. In all kits, we made sure to put the gloves and CPR barrier on top for fast and easy access.
- Bug-out bags: another complete kit in the bag.
- Bike: a smaller and more basic kit, without the pet items, is packed to take when going out for a day of errands on the bike. This will be essential when we are in a more rural location.
- Home: we organized our home supplies into a first aid kit so we can grab it easily in case a neighbor is injured. Because size is not an issue here, we were able to add full bottles of pills and tubes of ointment instead of buying the more expensive small packets.
We came up with our first aid kit by combining lists and information learned from three first aid classes we took in the past month: Red Cross First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, and Pet First Aid. I printed out our list (shared below) and checked off the items we needed for each of the kits we wanted. We already had a couple of small first aid kits previously purchased for the vehicle and the bug-out bags, so we dumped those out on the bed and gathered up all of the medical supplies from our house. We started making piles for each kit and a list of the supplies still needed.
One big shopping trip later and we were done. I won't lie to you and say it did not cost a few bucks. It did. However, we see this as an investment in ourselves and our community. We have the supplies if we need them for ourselves and for others. It won't cost any additional money unless we use some up in an emergency. Everything other than the medicines, which should be checked annually for expiration, will keep just fine.
Whether you choose to have just one kit or several, and whether you buy one or make your own, be sure you know what's in each kit and how to use everything. Learn before you need to know.
First Aid Kit
- 6 pairs non-latex gloves (nitrile) – Latex allergies can be serious. Be sure to get the non-latex gloves.
- Breathing barrier (with one-way valve) – you can get a one-time use barrier or a permanent mask with a replaceable valve and filter.
- Safety shears – round-nosed for cutting off clothing without stabbing victim with scissor points.
- Oral thermometer (non-mercury/non-glass)
- Flashlight – accidents can happen at night.
- Sharpie pen – useful if you need to write on a body part for emergency personnel.
- Instant cold compress
- Chemical heat pack
- Space blanket
- Biohazard or Ziploc bags
- First Aid instruction booklet
- Accident forms – particularly handy for wilderness situations. Sample
- Ballpoint pen
- 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
- 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
- 2 absorbent compress dressings – 5 x 9 inches
- Adhesive cloth tape (10 yds x 1 inch)
- 2 inch wide roller bandage
- 4 inch wide roller bandage
- Coban wrap aka Vet Wrap – available in drugstores. May be cheaper at feed stores or vet supply.
- 2 triangular bandages – you can make your own with a sheet like we did. Standard dimensions for the right angle triangle are 37" x 37" x 52". Size up if needed for large persons.
- 4 safety pins – to secure triangle bandages. Duct tape also works.
- Duct tape
- SAM splint - comes in a variety of sizes. We chose 36 inch. In an emergency, they can be cut down in size if necessary.
- Antiseptic wound wash or providine iodine
- 5 triple antibiotic ointment packets (~1 gram each)
- 5 antiseptic wipe packets
- 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
- 4 packets of ibuprofen (200 mg each)
- 2 doses Benadryl (25 mg each) - may be safe for dogs, but check with your vet before using.
- 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (~ 1 gram each)
- Glucose – to lessen shock in dogs. Can also help a diabetic. Liquid preferred for dogs as you rub a little on the gums - we got honey sticks. A sugar packet added to water is fine for a diabetic.
- Sunscreen - if on extended trip.
- Comb – used for cactus removal. Flick the cholla segment away with the comb to avoid getting spines stuck in the fingers! (Photo credit.)
For pet first aid, specifically dog in our case, there is a lot of overlap in supplies. These are the additional items we got that are just for Angel. The ASPCA has additional information on disaster preparedness for pets.
Additions for Pet First Aid
- Clean cloth
- Multi-tool with pliers - these are handy anyway.
- Forceps – for extracting something from the mouth without getting bitten.
- Baby dose syringe or non-glass eye dropper – for administering medicine.
- Muzzle - buy one or make one on the spot, using a roller bandage or even a shoelace.
- CPR barrier – this is not essential. You can give mouth-to-snout CPR. Printable instructions here. (One caution: don't give a full human breath to a small animal; you can burst their lungs.)
To make your own CPR barrier from a soda bottle, cut off the bottom two-thirds of the bottle and wrap the edge in duct tape. (My sweetie put a piece of insulating foam along the edge for more comfort.) To use, place over dog's mouth and nose, and breathe into the drinking end. This is for use only if the dog is unconscious. Do not try this with a conscious dog.
- Sterile saline eye wash – available in drug stores near contact eye solutions.
- Sterile eye lubricant
- Styptic powder or pencil – stops minor bleeding. Available in pet stores or online.
- Bach’s Rescue Remedy – helps calm your pet.
- List of emergency phone numbers - include your vet, emergency vet/pet hospital, local Humane Society, and local animal shelter.) ASPCA has an Animal Poison Control Center you can call at (888) 426-4435 but there is a $60 fee per call. (The National Poison Control Center at (800) 222-1222 is for humans.)
Pet supplies in our home first aid kit only.
- Digital thermometer (ear or rectal – rectal is more accurate) – any digital thermometer can be purchased at drugstore, although you probably want to mark it in some way for pet use only.
- Rectal lubricant - petroleum jelly or water-based sterile lubricant
- 3% hydrogen peroxide - to induce vomiting.
- Rubbing alcohol
- Grooming clippers
- Epsom salts - for soaking.
I hope this list proves helpful to you. Remember, this is a really complete list. You do not necessarily need everything on it. Even a $20 kit from the store is better than nothing!