Safety Series: First Aid – The plan we all need but fail to plan for

After a short hiatus, we are back covering First Aid as part of our Safety Series. Today we discuss the First Aid plan we all need, but fail to plan for. It’s part of our DNA …

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Oct 24 2018
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After a short hiatus, we are back covering First Aid as part of our Safety Series. Today we discuss the First Aid plan we all need, but fail to plan for.

It’s part of our DNA as Australians – we have this belief that ‘she’ll be right’ and think that we are invincible and that nothing could go wrong. Because of this, we fail to plan adequately for the situations where “she’s not going to be right”.

Being prepared for an injury is no different. Most people pack a first aid kit into their rig somewhere before they head out, just in case, and this is a great thing (that there is some thought into being prepared in case someone gets hurt). However, it is only one part of the equation.

By definition, First Aid is exactly that – initial aid to an injured person with the aim of either stabilising them or preventing further injury until they can get proper medical help. There are two key components to this:

  • Being able to provide effective First Aid
  • Being able to get the person to proper medical help

Providing effective First Aid

Providing First Aid is relatively simple. It requires some basic equipment (a First Aid Kit), and some knowledge of how to do it. The gold plated solution here is to have a high quality first aid kit, as well as someone who is first aid trained. The reality of being trained though, is that like most things, unless you touch it regularly, you lose the skills.

There are some great apps around now that will walk you through the process of providing First Aid to someone on your phone. Best of all, they work without mobile reception. St Johns and also The Red Cross have good free apps, as does Rescue Swag (a company we have reviewed here).

Most people could manage this initial treatment of a casualty. Where we fail is in considering how we are going to get medical help.

Getting a person to proper medical help

So, you’ve used the first aid app and your first aid kit to apply a snake bite bandage to your mate who accidentally stepped on what you think might be a Brown snake and got bitten. You are at a mates farm, at least an hours drive to the front gate, and then have a further 30 minute drive until you get to a reliable spot for mobile reception. You’ve no idea where the nearest hospital is.

The above scenario is a possible one, and its probably where people fail to plan adequately which can really put them in a predicament if something goes wrong. Having applied a bandage to your mate will no doubt slow down the spread of the poison, but unless you get him to a hospital where he can get antivenom, all you’ve done is buy him a bit more time. And even in the scenario above, its going to take 90 minutes just to start the process of alerting emergency services, let alone getting them to you!

Given the fact that four wheel driving takes us to remote places, where access and communication can be difficult, it adds significant complexity to getting someone medical attention, and its something we need to think about before we head out.

The Military knows this better than anyone. No-one goes anywhere without a ‘Casevac’ plan or Casualty Evacuation Plan.’ It considers the practicalities of managing an injury at every stage of an activity and ensures that everyone knows what to do and how to get medical help at any point. It ensures that the injured person gets medical attention as soon as possible.

We can take a leaf out of their book and it will take us a long way to being prepared. 5 minutes of thought before you head out can make a significant difference to managing an injury when you are hours from help with limited communications.

Questions to ask before you head out

Next time you plan a trip, consider the following:

  • Where are you planning to go?
  • What are the locations of key medical facilities at each key point of the route? (Medical centres, Hospitals, Rescue Helicopter locations, Ambulance stations)
  • What is the best route to the nearest hospital from your location, and how long would it take you to get there? Would this change if you had to move by foot?
  • How long would it take for medical assistance to get to your location from their station
    1. Via vehicle? (Factor in 5-8 min from them being contacted to rolling out the door, and travelling at no more than the speed limit)
    2. Via air (Plan on a helicopter being able to travel 250km/h, but assume a minimum half hour delay in taking off from being notified, and where might they be able to land?)
  • How long will it take to notify Emergency Services from your most remote location?
    1. If no mobile reception at that location, where is the nearest area that has confirmed reception and how long will it take to get there?
    2. Would the person going to establish communications be going towards medical help, or away from it?
  • If you don’t have the ability to contact Emergency Services:
    1. Can you move the casualty with you or do they need to stay where they are?
    2. Who is going for help?
      1. Will that person call for help and then return, or will they wait to guide help back to the injured person? And how long is that likely to take?

These questions will give you important insight into where you need to get someone in a medical emergency, as well as how long it will take to get them there. That informs how long you may need to manage an injury, as well as how you will manage or treat different types of injury, ranging from minor sprains or strains to major bleeding or serious injuries like snake bites. It also helps you form a preliminary course of action on what to do if someone gets hurt. The end result is that you can get someone to medical help in the quickest time possible.

Key points

  • Its not enough to just have a first aid kit – you need to know how to use it.
    • Download an app onto your phone to take the stress out of the situation
    • If phones are not your thing, download and print some fact sheets and keep them with your First Aid Kit. Here is a link to a good Snake bite one from St Johns.
  • When travelling remotely it is important to plan for how you will get help. Know where help is likely to come from, how long it will take, and how you will establish communications with emergency services
  • If you are going to be very remote, consider taking the following:
    • Personal Locator Beacon
    • Defibrillator (may make the difference between life and death in the event of a heart issue)
    • Satellite Phone

As always, safe touring,

Aiden Frost

Marketing Manager, Club 4X4

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