13. Emergency Preparedness

June 10, 2021

I used to be a Scout Leader for Scouts Canada and very much enjoyed volunteering for the organization.  A statement you will often hear in the Scouting community is “be prepared”. Today I share a story about a time I was not prepared.    

I was at a local shooting range doing a Black Badge Course. The course provided fantastic safety training on holster use, how to reload on the move and safe firing techniques for competitions… but that is a story for another day. 

Today’s story starts on my way home where I came across a motor vehicle accident on the highway. I, along with several other motorists, including off-duty ambulance and fire personnel, stopped to assist. There was some basic treatment needed for one of the individuals involved. Treatment was given and all was well.   

What could have gone better on my end was the availability of appropriate equipment. I usually carry a trauma bag with me when traveling out of Edmonton but did not have it this time. I sold my old SUV and unfortunately, the trauma bag went along with it. We did have a first aid kit provided by a fellow motorist that stopped, giving us adequate protective equipment and basic supplies. Thankfully, that was enough for this situation. 

If I had the trauma bag, we would have a few more options open to us. For example, taking better vital signs, as I would have my stethoscope and sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff in the vernacular).  I also would have access to better trauma shears if we had wanted to cut clothing. Again, thankfully, none of this was needed in this instance, but it does make a person think. 

What if the circumstances were different? If there was assisted breathing required, we would have had to make do with whatever was in the first aid kit. I do not recall there being a pocket mask, maybe there was a basic shield in there, but I did not see it. My kit would give us access to a Bag Valve Mask which would outperform either option. In short, without the gear, I am simply a first aider that happens to have a good understanding of anatomy and physiology.  

What can we learn from this incident? Always check your gear, especially when away from home. In this case, it was a trauma kit. Question yourself, what else might be critical? Traveling in the winter? Do you have warm gear and maybe an emergency kit? Camping in the backcountry? How about a booster pack for your car, they do not cost a lot and might save you being stranded! 

Important note: you know that first aid kit that has been in your car for years? Check the expiry dates on the products so you know they will function when you need them to!