After working on this post and shelving it in the drafts, I decided to dust it off after a recent video (PG-13 warning) made its rounds through the gun-related blogosphere. I have yet to shoot myself and I don't have enough life insurance to make it worthwhile for the wife to shoot me, but I appreciated his sharing the negligent discharge with others for learning and safety purposes.
Pappy's safety rules when we went out hunting or plinking around the farm or woods were pretty simple years ago, "if any of you shoot yourselves, your brothers, your sisters, or your cousins... somebody's gettin' the switch, and if you shoot the dog, don't even come home!" What can I say, I am the descendant of farmers and educators which has engrained preparation, preparedness, and continual life-long learning into my very being.
In a previous post about fundamentals, the safety rules were discussed. Regardless of how safe we are, anytime we are around guns, or people - including ourselves - there is a chance for injury from our environment, ourselves, others, and of course... the guns. Sometimes you can try to do everything just right and a negligent discharge or something beyond your control such as an accidental discharge (hat tip to Shootin Buddy and Geodkyt), Barney in the next lane over at the range, or Bubba in the woods while hunting can ruin your entire day... or life.
When it comes to first-aid, there are as many opinions on this topic as there are opinions on guns. I had my original first-aid training as a boy scout growing up, then additional training in the police academy, and beyond that I've taken and re-taken several different Red Cross courses, a wilderness survival/first-aid course, and a Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) Course. I've tried to keep my CPR updated, although we're pretty much to just pumping on the chest and forgetting the rescue breathing thing these days (that was tongue-in-cheek folks). I've also had Automated External Defibrillator (AED) training. I hope to pursue EMT training at some point, but I only have 27 hours a day to get everything done.
If you've never had any first-aid training, you might start by checking into local Red Cross classes, the American Heart Association, or area hospitals for basic first-aid training. Often local community colleges or career centers offer first-aid, EMT, and even paramedic training opportunities. Some military bases offer first-aid and TCCC courses too. While Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) training is typically available to those in the medical profession such as paramedics, nurses, and doctors, you might look into it if you're continuing your education. There are also many options available for us regular folks like TDI's Field Emergency Medicine course, Gunsite Academy's Emergency Medical Preparedness course, or Magpul Dynamics' Medical courses.
You might even encourage your local range or club to host some first-aid training. The more training you have, the better off you'll be if a need ever arises and don't discount basic courses in first-aid, CPR, and AED as that level of knowledge has applied to most of the situations I've run across at the range or while hunting like slide-bites, heart-attacks, cuts, scrapes, and twisted ankles. And don't forget to involve your children, they may be your only aid. My daughter completed the Red Cross Basic First-Aid and CPR course, passing their written test with a perfect score, as part of a 4H first-aid project when she was only eleven years old.
First-Aid Kits, Equipment, and Supplies:
A friend of mine who is a trauma-certified E.R. doctor once told me, "If you're ever in a situation requiring medical care, no disrespect to the police, firefighters, or paramedics, but YOU are the first responder!" The rest of the professionals typically only show up after someone on the scene has called them. So if you are the first responder to your situation, what did you bring with you?
Now without going into a topic for another day, I'm a bit of a prepper so you'll rarely find me or my gals without our bug-out bags (BOBs) nearby with first-aid supplies, but additionally we have various first-aid kits and supplies in every vehicle, on the tractor, in the house, in the barn, in each of our desks at school (work), in my Every-Day-Carry (EDC) man-bag (Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack) and of course... in my range bag.
While you can put your own kits together, I usually start with purchasing a kit and then supplement as needed. Some of the best kits I have found are the various offerings by Adventure Medical Kits and Tactical Medical Packs (TMP) with QuikClot for gunshot wounds and serious bleeding (sometimes known as "blowout" kits). The TMP kits are vacuum-packed and made to fit in a standard ACU/BDU pocket to be easily carried on-person by police, military, or mall-ninjas. I'm sure others might have good suggestions in the comments area about supplies, kits, and recommendations.
The types of kits and supplements I add depends on their location and use. In my EDC man-bag, you'll find a small first-aid kit and a TMP Tac-Pack QC along with extra band-aids, Tylenol, and ibuprofen. I'm amazed as a college professor and 4H advisor how many band-aids I hand out, let alone college students needing something for headaches, usually right before an exam or project deadline.
In the range bag I keep an Adventure Medical Kits Hunter first-aid kit, a TMP Tac-Pack QC, a TMP Battle Pack, and two QuikClot 50 gram Sports packs. Most hunter first-aid kits include some type of "trauma wad" for you to use when applying pressure for significant hemorrhages (bleeding). I have supplemented my range-bag first aid kit with a LED Surefire flashlight, insect repellent, sunblock, and also extra band-aids, extra trauma wads, non-latex gloves, Tylenol, ibuprofen, and anti-septic wipes. The TMP Battle Pack includes a one-handed tourniquet in case you're by yourself. The QuikClot will stop bleeding quickly, but I would not use it for minor injuries.
Some folks took me to task recently about a comment I left on a blog recommending QuikClot because they alleged it caused tissue damage, but that information is long out-dated as QuikClot changed their product back in 2006. QuikClot sponges that are readily available to consumers currently use a kaolin-based sponge to stop the bleeding and it does not generate the heat which was a problem in original zeolite-based QuikClot used by the military. You'll notice a warning that the sponges are not for internal use, but that is just for FDA approval as a product to be used internally would have many restrictions and you wouldn't be able to just purchase it over-the-counter like at REI or Cabela's. I mention this to remind everyone to check your information and your sources. Even a medical professional can provide out-dated or inaccurate advice if they have not stayed on top of current information and training.
In each of our vehicles you'll always find more first-aid supplies, often a BOB, extra blankets, duct tape, bottles of water, plastic ponchos, and various other supplies.
Thinking ahead is one of the most critical, yet overlooked parts of safety and first-aid. Here is a list in no particular order, of things you should ponder when thinking ahead...
- Have a plan and let people know your plan.
- Try to never go shooting or hunting alone.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- If you have any allergies, diabetes, or medical conditions, let someone know and wear your medical alert bracelets or neck-chains. Allergic to bees? Keep your kit with you.
- Always have your cell phone with you (a must in my opinion for CCW), and check to make sure you have a signal as some of us who live two miles south of the middle of nowhere have a very weak or no signal on our cell phones.
- Know the address, coordinates, and/or description of where you are at - include it in your plans and info you leave with family or a friend.
- Know the emergency numbers for your area. 911 might work in civilization, but at our local gun club, 911 from a cell phone goes to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, which then tries to figure out which police, fire, or sheriff's department to transfer you too. Better to have the correct number for the right first-responders in your area with you.
- Have identification on you at all times.
- Duct tape has endless possibilities under any circumstance.
- Check the weather forecast and prepare for heat, cold, or other weather changes.
- Have some drinking water with you.
- If you take daily medicine, keep some with you in case you get stuck or don't make it home that night.
- Learn to always be aware, alert, and a constant observer or your surroundings and environment.
- Follow your local range or hunting rules and laws. If you're supposed to sign-in at the range, then sign-in so someone knows you're there. If you're supposed to put up the "range-in-use" flag, then do so.
- If you find yourself shooting or hunting with idiots - LEAVE IMMEDIATELY!
- Carry a spare key.
- Save the drinking until after you're done shooting or hunting.
- Get all the training you can, even non-first-aid training like the NRA's Range Safety Officer training - and if there is a Range Safety Officer at your range - listen to them unless they're an idiot, then refer to the previous recommendation about shooting or hunting with idiots.
- Don't wear sandals, open-toed shoes, or clothing that lends itself to injuries or problems like getting caught or catching hot brass.
- If you're in a tree-stand, take and wear the harness!
- Never go down range unless their is a cease fire, the range is cold, all firearms have their actions open and nobody is touching a firearm.
- Carry a Sharpie medium-point permanent marker, the possibilities are endless.
- Read the instructions.
- Carry and look at area maps before you leave. Visualize where you are going, where you are, where you've been. GPS units are great, but they can fail... carry a compass.
- Check your equipment and supplies BEFORE you leave.
- Don't hike into the woods for a hunting trip with brand new boots, equipment, or anything that you haven't broken-in, checked, or tried out. I've seen many a man ruin their three-day hunting trip on the first day with blisters on their feet.
- Be practical! You're not likely to carry around a 60-pound first-aid kit or tow an ambulance with you. Put something together that is ready and available when needed, which means it's convenient to carry with you.
- Know where the nearest police, fire, ems, hospital, shelter, water, etc. is, especially if you're new to the area.
- ...and the brown hat with antlers your wife or friend gave you as a present for deer hunting season, leave it at home.
I hope you all stay safe while shooting!