(2005; Contributed by Oilman2)

We’ve talked about several issues to date; electricity, food, hunting, gardening. Each of them is a means of maintaining preparedness in the face of the unknown. By the simple act of acknowledging that this could happen to you and your family, you are better prepared than most people. Instituting the minor changes required to keep your self and your family insulated from disastrous events is a key to not only surviving them, but surviving them well.

The single most vivid survival rule I know is the Rule of Three: you can die from blood loss in 3 seconds, air loss in 3 minutes, heat loss in 3 hours, water loss in 3 days, food loss in 3 weeks, shelter loss in 3 months and health loss in 3 years.

We haven’t spoken about First Aid, which is a big deal in disaster a setting. The single best thing I can recommend is that you take a Red Cross First Aid course. If you don’t have access to Red Cross, take another type of course (Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, etc.) or read some First Aid material and keep it on hand. Make-up or buy several First Aid kits, and keep them stocked. Always have simple things like calamine lotion, disinfectants, Neosporin, iodine, betadine, alcohol, etc. on-hand. Think about what you might need and make it a part of your household inventory.

First Aid is basic triage. It is intended to work for you UNTIL you get to a hospital or other medical center where the experts can take over. But there may be times when this is simply not possible. You might be backpacking and out of communication; you could be stranded on an island in the middle of a lake; the hospital may be overrun with some rampant virus, like the Chinese bird flu. There are times when you just may have to practice some type of medicine all on your own to prevent the loss of your life or a loved one. I would recommend a look at these links:



Now, bear in mind I am NOT advocating that just anybody go out and sew up a cut in their kids arm without knowing exactly what they are doing. I will say that I have done this to co-workers in remote locations, and it simply isn’t all that difficult to do. That is why they let interns and nurses do it in clinics and ER’s. If you have a neighbor who is a nurse or a doctor, then it would be prudent to include them in your disaster plans.

But what if it fell to you? Do you have the knowledge to effectively evaluate a deep laceration? Do you have the appropriate disinfectants and suture materials on-hand to enable you to repair and close the wound? And do you have any available antibiotics to help reduce the risk of infection?

If your adolescent child had all the symptoms of acute appendicitis, could you even contemplate operating to save their life? If the septic appendix ruptures, then in all likelihood septicemia will take the life of this child. What can YOU do about an event like this? Doesn’t it make sense to know the exact symptoms and diagnosis for appendicitis?

Suppose that you lost a crown, and the pulp in your old tooth became exposed, making chewing impossible due to the pain. What if this turned into an infection? Can you do a simple tooth extraction to solve this problem? People actually DIE from tooth infections today in Africa. Wouldn’t it be in your best interest to know how to pull a tooth without leaving half of it in someone’s jaw?

What I am trying to say in these examples is that medical emergencies should be included in your preparedness plans. This includes knowing which of your neighbors is a doctor, dentist, nurse or veterinarian. Yes, veterinarian, because they have the same basic training. If you can sew up a dog, you can sew up a human. If you can operate in the cramped area of someone’s mouth, then operating on someone’s appendix should be a welcome break from a cramped mouth. Talk with and include these people in your plans. They will be in the same boat you are in. Their knowledge might save your life.

Another couple of good links:



A handy item to have is the PDR (Physicians Desk Reference). This is updated annually and contains drug information including interactions, reactions, dosages and precautions for prescription, OTC, herbal and vitamins. You should probably have one of these anyway, electricity out or not.

Most of us rely completely on doctors, nurse and dentists. But the only difference between you any doctor is education and training. Much of what doctors know can be learned by you, simply by reading. If nothing else, this will allow you to converse intelligently with a doctor who hides behind words like “subcutaneous hematoma”, which sounds really nasty but is actually the common bruise. Many doctors have no, zero, nada, zilch bedside manner; they have trouble communicating with patients in a meaningful way about medical issues. Becoming familiar with the geography of your body, how it works and what all these weirdly named things are will only help you. In a medical situation, you will be smarter, more informed and better able to make a good decision about possible treatments the doctors may offer you.

You only need to buy these big medical books once – they will get dated, but the core of them is solid and reliable. Much of each of the large books referenced in the links above is old knowledge and procedures. The primary change in surgical procedures over the last few years has been a shift to less invasive procedures using special instruments. But the surgical and treatment goals remain the same. And your basic body has been the same since before civilization rose.

I am not advocating that you attempt to con your neighbor into letting you operate on them! I am condoning having a plan in place for medical emergencies, and educating yourself to a level where you feel confident that you can handle common emergencies and trauma, and where you can communicate intelligently with doctors. Simply being able to understand their language and knowing what questions to ask your doctors can save your life in today’s medical climate.

If you do nothing else, then take a first aid course, then buy and READ these two books:

Where There Is No Doctor

Where There Is No Dentist

They will both open your eyes…….


WHAT IF… Somebody gets hurt or sick? — 1 Comment

  1. I have attended a week long survival medical course. Many of the aspects were common sense and many were quite complex (including amputations and trepanning).

    But the one thing that became quite clear in the end was that in the absence of institutionalised medical care, good nursing often saved a life.

    What is the point of being smart enough to amputate a gangrenous limb if you have no one appropriate to give the 3-6 months nursing care needed? Even birth and breast feeding should involve a level of care and nutritional support.

    So factor in a team when you read the medical books and bone up on natural/ herbal medicinals and cookery for invalids and realise that alone is really not the best way to survive.

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