Building Survival Skills 1: First Aid

I've spent a lot of time this year talking about gear. Figured it can't hurt to spend a bit of time talking about the skills needed to use that gear properly. I'm going to start this discussion with first aid skills.

As the end of the year is approaching, I’ve been taking a look back at the blog posts this year and realize it has been a very gear heavy year. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but at the end of the day the best gear in the world might as well be paper weights without the right skills to use it. As a result, I want to take a bit of time to visit survival skills and think a small series of posts on this topic will compliment the Building a Quality Survival Kit on a Budget series very well.

In the second installment of the Building a Quality Survival Kit on a Budget series, I introduced the survival rules of threes (which I stole from somewhere that I can’t remember). Basically, the rules of three indicate a person can only survive for:

  • three minutes without air (or in icy waters),
  • three hours without shelter,
  • three days without water,
  • three weeks without food.

In that same installment, the first item I suggested for a survival kit was an inexpensive trauma kit. The reason for this is simple. A traumatic injury can be immediately life threatening and even a minor injury can eventually become life threatening. For these reasons, I keep a pocket trauma kit on my person all day every day, and also keep a boo boo kit nearby for the minor things.

But enough about the gear, let’s talk about the skills.

Now when it comes to first aid, I’m not suggesting everyone needs to go become an emergency trauma surgeon. That would take years of education and a significant monetary investment. What I am suggesting is that every single one of us should know enough first aid to deal with minor injuries and keep a major trauma in check long enough until the injured person can receive further aid from a medical professional. It’s about extending that three minute survival window out as long as possible. Granted it may not be enough, but anything more than three minutes increases the odds of survival.

So how does one go about building up enough first aid skills? I’m going to make a few suggestions based on what I’ve done and plan on doing. I’ve put this together from talking to a handful of friends and family members who are medical professionals, but this is not by any means an exhaustive plan. Heck, it may not even be a good plan. It’s just my plan.

First things first, build some knowledge. While there are plenty of videos and blog posts out on the internet that cover this topic, I’m actually going to suggest to stay away from those unless you happen to have direct access to a medical professional that can tell you whether or not what you are learning is legit or bull shit. I do think there are some good inexpensive books on the topic that are worth picking up and reading. The one I picked up and do recommend is The Survival Medicine Guide.

This book has a ton of good information that gets you thinking about different medical considerations for a survival situation. While it does provide “how to” guidance on performing many different first aid and medical tasks, it’s important to realize that some of the guidance is a bit light and could lend itself to causing more harm than good if one attempted to apply it directly without any additional training. However, if civilization has crumbled then one might be better off with that than with nothing. Still I can’t emphasize this enough, reading a book does not create skill, it only builds knowledge. Ever tried following a cooking recipe for the first time and end up with an amazing dish afterwards? No? Me either.

After picking up a book and building a bit of basic knowledge, go take a Stop the Bleed class. Every now and then these classes are free. When they aren’t free, they are inexpensive. In fact, KR Training is hosting one on December 13th that I will be attending with a registration cost of $20. This particular class is specialized in dealing with a bleeding injury. So it’s not enough by itself, but it’s a good start.

Next up, go get some training and a certificate from the Red Cross. Start with first aid and CPR. Then if you feel inclined to do so, consider the AED class and certification. These classes will cost a bit more, but I think the cost is well worth the knowledge and skills one will gain. I suggest finding the in person classes to get some hands on classroom time. I think that’s a far better option than the online only classes since building skills only happens with actual hands on practice.

I honestly think anyone who has done all the things listed so far has a solid foundation on which to optionally build on. In my opinion, these are the first aid basics that every single preparedness minded individual should have in their repertoire.

While I’m currently working on that first aid skill foundation, I’ve already got my sights set on the next level. In my mind, that’s taking a Tactical Combat Casualty Care All Combatants (TCCC-AC) course which will be part of my training goals for 2021.

Of course, I’ll be publishing after action reports of all of the first aid courses as I take them to hopefully give folks some insight as to what to expect.

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