We always ask the question in terms of self-defense. Will you be ready to fight if you need to? Will you be prepared to take action? Can you get to your gun? Can you get rounds on target?
But what happens after the fight? Can you provide first aid or self-aid? Do you have the skills and gear to stop the bleeding? A first-aid kit is every bit as important as a defensive firearm when it comes to emergency, lifesaving equipment. More than likely you will use the first-aid kit more often than you will use the pistol.
This point was driven home recently when I witnessed a catastrophic fireworks injury. A young man decided to hold in his hand an explosive charge that he later described as a quarter stick of dynamite. I didn’t actually see the device. I was half a block away. I did see the blinding white flash and hear the report, which was immediately followed by much jumping around, shouting and general panic. Not a single person in the crowd of twenty-somethings knew what to do. Most of them simply repeated the same words over and over: “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God.”
In their defense, I’m certain none in that group had ever experienced anything similar, and seeing traumatic amputation of fingers can really add some stress to your day. Other elements, like the smell of burnt flesh and the sight of blood splattered on the poor man’s shirt, really put a dent in their celebration.
I sent the first person I encountered to call 911. The way it looked to me, the material in my personal first-aid kit would not be big enough to cover the injured man’s entire hand, so I instructed one of the panicky bystanders to fetch some towels. We elevated the injured limb, used a pressure point to slow the bleeding until we got the materials to cover the hand and put light pressure on the wounds. Then, keeping the hand elevated, I started paying close attention for any sign of shock while we waited for help to arrive. A couple other off-duty cops stepped up to help keep everyone calm and, before long, the flashing lights appeared at the end of the block and we were able to get the injured man on his way to a hospital.
I don’t know when they stopped teaching first aid in high school health class. It was also clear that no one in the crowd had been a Boy Scout and the only military veterans in sight were those who walked over to see what all the jumping and hollering was about.
When the ambulance was gone and the police had collected all their witness statements, one of the young men who had been playing with the fireworks said, “Whoa. That was crazy. How are you supposed to know what to do when something like that happens?”
“Well,” I said with no small amount of indignation, “knowing simple first-aid skills is part of being a grownup. You need to learn this stuff. What if you do something stupid when no one is around to help?”
I think this particular millennial was hoping for a response that could be described as something a little more cordial.
Just like it is too late to learn fighting skills when the fight starts, it is too late to learn first-aid skills when the blood is flowing. Get a kit. Learn first aid. Be ready.