â€œBe Prepared… the meaning of the motto is that a scout must prepare himself by previous thinking out and practicing how to act on any accident or emergency so that he is never taken by surprise.â€
-Sir Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts (emphasis mine)
First, extremely brief story time. This Thursday I walked into a dorm on campus, turned the corner, and found a female lying unconscious face up on the ground with a rather large pool of blood behind her head. I made sure 911 was called and applied first aid. The night ended with me spending 5 minutes in the bathroom scrubbing my hands to get the blood off. Head wounds bleed. A lot. Anyway, there is quite a bit more to the story, but if you want to read that, head on over to my place. This experience has led me to a larger point that I’d like to share.
The point is best summed up in the Baden-Powell quote at the top of the page. If you are truly going to be prepared, you can’t just go through the training. Training is important, yes, and if you don’t at least know basic first aid skills and CPR, you should take a course or two. But training alone won’t get you through a situation. There were at least two bystanders that I know knew what to do. But they didn’t, at least not initially. I did. I’m not going to try and play this up to be some huge deal; it’s not. Obviously, it wasn’t much of a life threatening situation. But I only found that out after I got my hands bloody and investigated to find out just how bad things were. If, say, it had been an arterial wound instead of a head wound, and say I had froze up for another 20 seconds, or I hadn’t been there and the bystanders I mentioned above had frozen up for that 20 seconds, that could be the difference between life and death. You have to run through things in your head before hand, play out scenarios, so you know exactly how you are going to react and don’t have to think about it. If you are taken by surprise, you will freeze up for that 20 seconds (or more), and as I’ve shown, that can be the difference between life and death.
It is a process that never stops, either. You always need to be reevaluating and rethinking things. For example, with this most recent case, I’ve thought about a couple of things. First, I’m going to start carrying a pair of latex gloves on me, so I’m never put in the uncomfortable situation of getting someone else’s blood all over my hands. Also, I needed to do a better job of taking charge of the situation. The friend was introducing too much stress into the situation; I should have just asked someone to take care of her and get her calmed down instead of trying to do it myself. Finally, I found that I needed to be better prepared to make small talk with the victim. I didn’t take the opportunity to find out anything more about what exactly happened, and I was finding that I was having to force myself to talk to her, which shouldn’t happen. Like I said, always something to learn.
This isn’t just something to do with basic first aid, either. All sorts of contingencies need to be planned for. LW over at Blackfive’s place has done a good job over the past week detailing disaster preparedness, an area I’ll be the first to admit I am piss-poor prepared for. Here’s a summary. Just a quick, by no means comprehensive list of things I’ve thought about: natural disaster (tornadoes/T-storms being the biggest threat where I live, although flooding depending on the topography), a large scale terrorist attack, fire, mugging attempt, car crash (both being involved in one and coming across one), heart attack, shooting incident, leg injury with myself (how do I get help if I’m alone and can’t walk)…the list could go on and on. The point is that you need to always be actively thinking about and preparing for these incidents so you are able to act and respond effectively.
And just so we’re clear, hitting 70 doesn’t clear you from responsibility for this. Those senior citizens seemed to be pretty prepared to act and defend themselves appropriately. Are you?
I’ll let RAH have the last word:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love
UPDATE: Nick posted some good links for first aid and other survival gear in the comments.