Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Ready or not.

Robert’s Rule – with due deference to the Coast Guard* and the Boy Scouts** ­– puts it this way: Ready is better than not.***

Of course the Rule begs a question: Ready for what? For those little everyday inconveniences, we have what my family calls the Bat Belt. (It’s not really a belt; it’s a little shoulder bag about the size of a carton of cigarettes. But we go with “Bat Belt” because Daddy gets cranky when it’s called a purse.) Little boy with a cactus needle in his finger? Shooting buddy shaky from dehydration? School spirit flag won’t stay attached to the car? Never fear, because tweezers and pouches of electrolytes and cables ties (oh, blessed cable ties) all nestle in the Bat Belt’s depths.  For under $15 you can buy one of your own and stuff it with whatever will make you more ready.

But some inconveniences are more inconvenient than others, and little in this world is as inconvenient as suddenly acquiring more holes in your body than you had when you began the day. Holes tend to leak and those leaks can kill you. Whether shot or hurt in a wreck – or even impaled by a plummeting piece of Skylab – it is now widely understood, in both the civilian and military context, that immediate action to stop blood loss is the key life saving technique for victims of such injuries.

Now, should such an inconvenience befall me, would I prefer the attentions of a trauma surgeon over the help of say, an attorney? Sure.  But I spend time around a lot more attorneys than trauma surgeons, and even an attorney – with a little training, a bit of the right gear, and the proper mindset – can plug a hole and save a life.

So can you. First you have to reject the Unified Field Theory of Dependence and the fallacious notion that you cannot help others, or even yourself, in the case of traumatic injury. The necessary techniques – direct pressure, use of pressure points, use of tourniquets and hemostatic dressings, and so on – are accessible to anyone with an interest in learning them. In fact, you can learn the useful basics, along with CPR, in a day.

Thus, my truck and my briefcase both contain “blow out kits”: compact (about the size of a Stephen King  paperback) specialized first aid kits dedicated to the proposition that blood belongs inside the body.  For $50 or so, you can purchase or put together something similar. Be sure to include a proper tourniquet, hemostatic gauze (such as QuickClot) and the right kinds of dressings. That the presence of such kits and people trained to use them, can make a difference was readily demonstrated a few weeks ago in Tuscon. **** It comes down to another version of “who you gonna call?” Just as “dial 911” does not constitute a complete home defense plan, neither does “dial 911” alone suffice for saving lives.

As discussed here before, readiness is a triad of equal parts skill, equipment and mindset – where mindset is more equal than the others. No less so here.  The day you find yourself deploying your blowout kit is not going to be a good day. Knowing what to do is going to be the least of it. I can tell you from personal experience that a large quantity of human blood spilled on the ground has a smell unlike anything else. Add piquant accents of bladder, bowel and terror sweat on a sunny August afternoon; set the scene to the tune of someone screaming ceaselessly in true agony; and then imagine the victim is a person whom you love.

Now do what needs doing anyway.

That’s proper mindset, and it’s in you if you make yourself ready. Because ready is better than not.

* Semper paratus.

** Be Prepared.

*** Here I respectfully depart from The Bard, who contended in Hamlet, Act v., Scene 2, that “the readiness is all.” Ready is better than not. But it’s not all. 

**** The concept for the kits began with the military. Having each soldier carry such a kit means that, when a medic gets to him, the tools for stopping blood loss, opening an airway and depressurizing chest wounds are always on hand. Moreover, each warfighter is able to offer that same assistance to his comrades and even to himself. Many police departments now equip their officers with something similar.


  1. I carry Adventure Medical Kits: Trauma Pack with QuikClot in the car plus one in the range bag. It comes with the following items sealed in an waterproof bag.

    Bandage Materials
    1 Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 3"
    1 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2" x 2", Pkg./2
    1 Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 4" x 4", Pkg./2

    1 Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
    1 QuikClot Sport 25g
    1 Trauma Pad, 5" x 9"

    Duct Tape
    1 Duct Tape, 2" x 26"

    Fracture / Sprain
    1 Bandage, Triangular

    Wound Care
    4 After Cuts & Scrapes Antiseptic Wipe

    PS: There is also a First Responder Bag in the truck. Overkill is not such in cases of medical emergencies.


  2. Tourniquet, Miggy. The triangular bandage will work, in a pinch, but not as well and cannot easily be self-applied.

    CAT tourniquet or similar is crucial.

  3. Hey! I have shoelaces! :)

    I gotta figure which one. Have you seen the field of available tourniquets out there? My idea is something I can easily apply to myself in case SHTF.

  4. This: