Disaster preparation should be a family affair and must include some first aid training. The person best suited for the job, should be the designated caregiver. A second person should be trained as backup in case the primary caregiver is among the injured.
The dangers inherent to the more violent natural disasters, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes are obvious, but floods, winter emergencies and heat related energy outages also have risks associated with them.
The bare minimum the caregiver should know is the following:
- how to clean and dress wounds
- how to suture wounds and when not to suture wounds
- how to reset, splint, or immobilize fractures
- how to perform cpr
- how to reduce a high fever
- how to deal with shock, or post-traumatic stress syndrome
- how to deal with heat exhaustion, or heat stroke
- how to deal with frostbite and hypothermia
- how to recognize and treat food poisoning
- how to clean and treat burns
- how to treat symptoms of electrical shock
- how to recognize symptoms of various diseases
- the importance of hygiene and sanitation following a disaster
The American Red Cross offers courses that cover most, if not all, of these subjects. People who have never worked in the medical field often shy away from these courses, thinking that they are not qualified, or capable of learning life saving techniques. This is not so. The courses are set up to train people with no prior knowledge of medicine. They are taught in layman’s terms and are interesting, informative and usually fun.
In North America, first responders should be on the scene within 72 hours, but this is not always the case. Survivors should be prepared to care for themselves for at least a week, maybe longer. Following a disaster of any magnitude the survivors will be facing the same problems that people living in third world countries face, daily. Under these conditions a person with any first aid or medical training will be invaluable.
Some people hesitate giving first aid help in fear of lawsuits. The Good Samaritan law protects caregivers in an emergency situation.
Preparing in advance by maintaining a well stocked first aid kit will greatly improve the chance of survival for you and your family, but additional training in field expedient medicine is invaluable. You can make a splint, or a neck brace using a rolled up newspaper. Bandages can be made from cotton cloth, or paper towels and duct tape. Remedies for upset stomachs, dehydration, burn treatment and other common problems can be made from ingredients found in any kitchen.
The more you know, the safer you will be, but nothing takes the place of advance preparation. Disaster preparedness is the best and least expensive insurance policy you can get for your family.