So, Massive disclaimer on this one… I’m not an authorised first aid trainer and any practices or techniques I may present are purely to put across a point of what I’ve personally done in the past, Also I’m purposefully not going to delve into treatment as I believe that proper 2 way training where you can interact and ask pertinent questions is the only form of training that’s effective for something so important as First Aid… You should also seek professional training in the use of any equipment or medication you carry for the purposes of first aid and the use of certain items such as Clotting granules/gauze and Tourniquets should absolutely not be administered without full knowledge of their intended application, potential side effects and a very good understanding of Casualty care.
First Aid can be broken down into 2 key sides if the same coin, “booboos” and “blowouts”. A “booboo” is something relatively minor… Something you can patch up and choose to carry on with or go home and cry into your cornflakes over. There are many examples of this, From minor cuts, bumps and strains to the more uncomfortable broken fingers, Shot out teeth and illnesses such as Vomiting and Diarrhoea. Basically anything that won’t result in loss of life or life altering injuries.
Although it goes without saying, you should definitely skip the afternoon game if your teeth are shot out or your finger’s pointing the wrong way.
“Blowouts” (A term I’m borrowing for this article) are those incidents that are more serious, Like a tyre blowout on the motorway its something that requires immediate attention to prevent permanent injury or death… Some of the listed conditions might surprise you with their inclusion into this list, But I assure you that most have the ability to manifest themselves on a 6 hour walk on, Their presence in a 2 day event where you don’t have mummy or your wife spoon-feeding you can find yourself in a serious condition should you not take steps to ensure your own safety. From Broken Bones, Being shot in the Eye, Diabetic Hypo/Hyper Attacks, Heatstroke, Dehydration and a plain old Myocardial Infarction (Heart Attack) there’s a great many things that you may or may not witness whilst playing Airsoft… I’ve personally seen a lot of Mild Dehydration, common during the summer months but can strike the unprepared at any time. Heart Attacks luckily I’ve not had to deal with whilst playing, Although a number of years ago I was working for a security business for a holiday park, As such I’ve had to deal with a number of Heart Attacks and sudden life threatening events, some of which have unfortunately been fatal in their outcome. (Yes, people go to Butlins to die… Savage but true)
Booboos I’ll cover in a bit, but for now let’s look at what you can do in a situation where your actions and what you carry could save someone’s life.
The key thing you need to do is remain calm, Panic breeds panic… If someone’s in a seriously bad way all you’ll do is quicken the pace they shuffle off this mortal coil if your unable to present a calm outward appearance. That’s not to say you can control what your thinking, but if you project the appearance of calm, your body will follow. Think of a duck swimming, all calm on the surface but feet paddling like fuck under the water.
Next up, Knowledge… Take a basic first aid course, Most businesses will require a percentage of their employees to be qualified first aiders, Become one of those people… It’ll show willing and may even help your career prospects. And although you might scoff at this run of the mill training, it’s saved more lives than you can imagine.
Learn how to spot the symptoms of life threatening conditions, Also be open with the guys you play with… if your Diabetic, let them know your warning signs for Hyper/Hypo Attacks… the same for Asthmatics or indeed anyone with a potentially deadly condition. Educate those around you and you’ll be in safer hands.
There’s not much else I can say about the major first aid stuff except, seek knowledge and get some decent training… The Red Cross offers decent training, as does St Johns Ambulance. Just don’t learn the core of it online… There’s nothing wrong with supplementing your knowledge base with YouTube videos but ideally you want a core grounding with a reputable trainer.
As for items that realistically can save someone’s life? A Mobile Phone. That’s it. There’s literally nothing else that’s going to dramatically increase someone’s chances of survival than the ability to phone the emergency services and get the help they need. Add this to a little knowledge and the appearance of calm and you’ll stop being part of the background and potentially save a life.
Carrying around a bag full of Chest Seals, CATs and Celox/QuikClot won’t do bugger all without both the knowledge of how their correctly used and when is appropriate to use them, And lets be honest… your not always going to have that lot around when you need it.
Now onto Booboos… this is something you can prepare quite well for and carry a number of things to assist you in case of a minor bump or cut. Let’s not mistake first aid with ongoing care, first aid is purely about making that initial assessment and quickly treating the cause of the issue. This could be something such as cleaning and bandaging a cut or dealing with a case of the “chocolate laser” both of which could make a weekend away from home that much less comfortable.
I have 4 first aid kits, 1 large kit at home stocked with a surplus of supplies, many things I’ve collected imn bulk buys and been given by friends who have access to mountains of medical supplies, most of which I’ll never use (hopefully).
Another First Aid Kit sits in my car, Stocked with items that may, god forbid assist in dealing with a Traffic Accident such as a Torch, Belt cutter, Glass breaker, Compression bandages, Burn gel, water and a couple of hi-vis jackets.
The two IFAKs I use for Airsoft are complementary to each other and built to meet my basic needs, the first is a mostly commercial bought kit that although modest in size, packs a fair amount into its shell. This kit is what I’ll have in my bag or at our FOB when at a weekend game, It contains a basic mix of bandages, Doc Spartan (A great product that aids healing of minor cuts and abrasions… see HR4K for more info), gauze, plasters (band-aids for my US readers) antiseptic wipes and gloves. There’s a few other additions such as store brand Imodium (Anti-Shit yourself tablets) and painkillers to a space blanket and an Israeli Compression bandage.
The second IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) is one which sits in my LBT Blowout Pouch on my belt kit wrapped up inside a ziplock bag, It’s basic and purely designed to stop bleeding, grumbles and headaches. I carry a couple of smaller bandages, some plasters,hydration tablets, antiseptic, Gerber STL 2.5″ Lock knife, gloves and finally some more painkillers should I be hit by a headache when out on in game (Although bear in mind that headaches are often caused by mild dehydration, so the best course of action is to hydrate yourself sufficiently).
The LBT blowout pouch is a very simple yet effective bit of nylon… it’s biggest apparent shortfall is its biggest strength. The opening of this pouch is on the bottom and is activated by pulling on a retained release wire, this then opens up the entire bottom of the pouch, spilling its contents onto the ground. You’d think that a pouch that’s designed to spill its contents onto the ground and not be easy to reseal would be a crap idea, however it both enables the user to access all its contents quickly and without fiddling with clips or buttons, Also it puts a blowout kit on the floor right next to you… ready to go (Military Blowout kits generally contain a few items encased in a shrink wrapped sleeve, so no worries about getting dirt in the bandages)
The other benefit is that it prevents you from using the pouch as a GP or dump pouch… this means that your unlikely to add unwanted weight and bulk. There are many other pouches available, many (especially on the UKSF impression scene) opting for the pricey but smart looking BlueForceGear Micro Trauma Kit Now. A great pouch in its own right but apparently a lot better if used with the BFG insert (which as an Airsofter I’d be unlikely to ever need)
Another item I’ll hopefully never need but often have a couple of somewhere on my loadout is a CAT or Combat Application Tourniquet, this ingenious device has saved many lives both in and out of the war zone but on my kit it’s purely there for the military aesthetic. I’ve recently come into possession of a kydex CAT holder, made by none other than HW Holsters… I’ll be doing a quick review on this very soon but if your eager to buy one, click here
A tourniquet is a last ditch device, designed to stop major bleeds that if otherwise left unstemmed would lead to almost certain death. They are used with the full knowledge that even relative short term usage can lead to permanent damage and possible forced amputation of the limb it’s applied to. There is also a very real risk of death if not used in a proper manner, so for fuck sake… DO NOT EVER APPLY A TOURNIQUET WITHOUT FULL TRAINING OF ITS USE, EFFECTS AND ONGOING CASUALTY CARE.
The Israeli compression bandage is another life saving device which is much better suited to a general IFAK, designed to put additional pressure on a wound, and to be relatively easy to apply. Although you will need practice in its application to become proficient enough to count on it in an emergency, being covered in blood and fumbling with a wrapped upside down bandage isn’t a fun day out.
The long and short of this article is this…
Knowledge is power. Arm yourself with an understanding of what to do in an emergency situation, seek formal training if your able to… the ability to save a life is an empowering thing, you’ll hopefully never have to use it but like they say “It’s better to have and not need, than to need and not have”
“Individual” First Aid Kits are just that… Individual. Build it around what you see as your medical needs, the core should be around stopping the bleed but apart from that it’s dictated by your environment… as long as you see a need for it and your confident in how to use it, by all means have it in your kit.