MEDICAL PREPAREDNESS: HOW TO GET STARTED
The focus of this book is medical preparedness: the ability to deal with sickness and injuries in tough times. Of course, anyone wishing to survive must first have food, water, and a shelter of some sort. A full stomach and protection from the elements will be the top priority. What, then, is next on the list?
After gathering food and building a shelter, many prepared individuals consider personal and home defense to be the most important priority in the event of a societal collapse. Certainly, defending oneself is important, but have you thought about defending your health?
In a situation where power might be down and normal methods of filtering water and cleaning food don’t exist, your health is as much under attack as the survivors in the latest zombie apocalypse movie. Infectious diseases would likely become rampant, and it will be a challenge to maintain sanitary conditions. Simple activities of daily survival, such as chopping wood, commonly lead to cuts that could get infected. These minor issues, so easily treated by modern medical science, can easily become life threatening if left untreated in a disaster.
You may be an accomplished outdoorsman and have plenty of food and your share of defensive weaponry. Yet, what would you say to a member of your family who becomes ill or injured in a remote and austere setting? The difficulties involved in a grid-down situation will surely put the health of your entire family or group at risk. It’s important to have training and supplies to deal with infections and injuries.
In a collapse, there will likely be a lot more diarrheal disease than gunfights at the O.K. corral. History teaches us that, in the Civil War, there were more deaths from dysentery than there were from bullet wounds.
If you make the commitment to learn how to treat medical issues and to store medical supplies properly, you’re taking a genuine first step towards ensuring your family’s survival in dark times. The medical supplies are more likely to be there if the unforeseen happens, and the knowledge you gain will be there for the rest of your life. Many medical supplies have long shelf lives; their longevity will be one of the factors that will give you confidence when moving forward. And let’s not ignore their value as barter items in times of trouble.
We also encourage you to learn about natural remedies and alternative therapies that may have some benefit for different issues. We cannot vouch for the effectiveness of every claim that one thing or another will cure what ails you. Suffice it to say that our family has an extensive medicinal garden and that it might be a good idea for your family to have one, too. Many herbs that have medicinal properties are hardy and do well in less than optimal conditions for most plants, so a green thumb is not required to cultivate them. Many of them do not even require full sun to thrive.
It’s important to understand that some illnesses will be difficult to treat if modern medical facilities aren’t available. It will be hard to do much about those clogged coronary arteries—there won’t be many cardiac bypasses performed. However, by ensuring good nutrition, you will give yourself the best chance to minimize some major medical issues. In a survival situation, an ounce of prevention is worth not a pound but a ton of cure. Start off healthy, and you’ll have the best chance to stay that way.
We’re not asking you to do anything that your great-grandparents didn’t do as part of their strategy for succeeding in life. In a collapse, we’ll be thrown back, in a way, to that era. It’s important to learn some of the methods they used to stay healthy.
Some members of our family wonder why we spend all our time trying to prepare people medically for a major disaster. Despite history teaching us otherwise, they are totally certain that there is no scenario that would take away, even temporarily, the wonders of high technology. They tell me that we can’t turn everyone into doctors, so why should we try?
Are we trying to turn everyone into doctors? No, there’s too much to learn in one lifetime. Even as medical professionals, we often come across medical situations we’re not sure about. That’s what medical books are for, so make sure that you put together a survival library. You can refer to them when you need to, just as we do.
We are, however, trying to make you a better medical asset to your family and community than you were before. We firmly believe that, even if you have not undergone a formal medical education, you can learn how to treat the majority of problems you will encounter in a grid-down situation. You can, if necessary, be the end of the line with regards to the medical well-being of your people.
If you can absorb the information we provide in this guide, you will be in a position to help when the worst happens. Maybe, one day, you might even save a life; if that happens just once, our mission will have been a success.
WILDERNESS MEDICINE VS. LONG-TERM SURVIVAL MEDICINE
What is wilderness (also referred to as outdoor) medicine? We define it as medical care rendered in a situation where modern care, training, and facilities are not readily available. Wilderness medicine would involve medical care rendered during wilderness hikes, maritime expeditions, and sojourns in less-developed countries.
The basic assumption is that trained doctors and modern hospitals exist but are unavailable at the time that medical care is required (perhaps for a significant period of time). You, as temporary caregiver, will be responsible for stabilizing the patient. That means not allowing the injury or illness to get worse.
Your primary goal will be the evacuation of the patient to modern medical facilities, even though they might be hundreds of miles away from the location of the patient. Once you have transferred your patient to the next highest medical resource, your responsibility to the sick or injured individual will be over. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) or military corpsmen will recognize this strategy as “stabilize and transport.”
Although principles of wilderness medicine have saved many lives, this approach is different from what we would call “long-term survival” or “collapse medicine.” In a societal collapse, there is no access to modern medical care and no potential for such access in the foreseeable future.
As a result of this turn of events, you would go from being a temporary first-aid provider to being the caregiver at the end of the line. You become the highest medical resource left, regardless of whether you have a medical diploma.
This fact will lead you to make adjustments to your medical strategy. You are now responsible for the long-term care of the patient. As such, if you want to be successful in your new position, you will have to obtain more knowledge and training than you have now. You will also need more supplies if you intend to maintain the well-being of your family or friends. You will need a plan to deal with their potential medical needs.
Long-term survival medicine
Medical training and education for nonphysicians can include wilderness medical classes, EMT, and even military medical corps training. These courses presuppose that you are rendering care in the hope of later transporting your patient to a working clinic, emergency room, or field hospital. If you can make the commitment, this training is very useful to have; it’s much more likely that you’ll experience a short-term deficit of medical assistance than a long-term one.
Despite this, you must plan for the possibility that you will be completely on your own one day. The way you think about this must be modified to fit a day when intensive care units and emergency rooms are inaccessible. You won’t have the luxury of passing the sick or injured individual to a formally trained provider, so you must be ready to be there for your patient from start to finish.
You will also have to understand how to treat certain chronic medical conditions. Even a paramedic, for example, is unlikely to know how to deal with an abscessed tooth or a thyroid condition in the absence of drugs and high technology that may not be available.
Therefore, you must learn methods that will work in a power-down scenario; you may even have to reach back to older strategies that modern medicine might consider obsolete. Using a combination of prevention, improvisation, and prudent use of supplies, you should be able to treat the great majority of problems you will face in a power-down scenario.
Although all of this might seem daunting, we hope to impart enough information in this guide to make you confident in your new role. When you learn what to do in any scenario, you will feel that quiet resolve which comes with the knowledge that you can do the job. You’ll be up to the challenge before you, and you’ll know it.
THE IMPORTANCE OF COMMUNITY
Let’s suppose that a calamity has occurred, and you have survived. The power grid is down, and is unlikely to be up again for years. You, however, have prudently stored food, medical supplies, and farming and hunting equipment and are safe in your shelter. You are a fine, young, strapping individual with no medical issues and are reasonably intelligent. Unfortunately, you haven’t the slightest idea what the first thing is that you should do to ensure your future health and survival.
The very first way to help ensure your medical well-being is very basic: Don’t be a lone wolf! The forlorn creature in the above photograph is a thylacine, sometimes called a Tasmanian wolf. Why did I choose this animal instead of a majestic red or gray wolf? I chose it because the Tasmanian wolf is extinct; if you try to go it alone in a long-term disaster situation, you will be extinct, too. The support of a survival group, even if it’s just your extended family, is essential if you are to have any hope of keeping it together when things fall apart.
There will be activities that you would find hard to imagine in an austere setting. You will have to stand watch over your property. You will have to lug gallons of water from the nearest water source. Fill up a 5-gallon bucket with water and walk 100 yards with it (after staying up from midnight to 4:00 a.m. standing outside your house), and you’ll get the feel of what you might have to go through on a daily basis.
Being the sole bearer of this burden will negatively affect your health and decrease your chances of long-term survival. Exhausted and sleep-deprived, you will find yourself an easy target not only for marauding gangs but for marauding bacteria as well. Your immune system weakens when exposed to long-term stress, so you will be at risk for illnesses that a well-rested individual could easily weather. Division of labor and responsibility will make a difficult situation more manageable.
You can imagine how much more possible this will be if you have a group of like-minded individuals helping each other. You can’t possibly have all the skills needed to do well by yourself, even if you’re Daniel Boone. A rugged individualist might be able to eke out a miserable existence in the wilderness alone, but a society can only be rebuilt by a community.
There’s no time like the present to communicate, network, and put together a group of like-minded people. The right number of able individuals to assemble for a mutual-assistance group will depend on your retreat and your resources. The ideal group will have people with diverse skills but similar philosophies.
Unless you are already in such a community, you may feel that it is impossible to find and put together a group of people that could help you in times of trouble. Luckily, that isn’t the case. You’ll find many compatriots in online forums that pertain to preparedness.
It’s not enough to just be in a group, however. The people in that group must have regular meetings, decide on priorities, and set things in motion. Put together plan A, plan B, and plan C and work together to make their implementation successful. Keep lines of communication open so that all your group members are kept informed.
Optimize your own health before any catastrophe occurs. If you, as medical caregiver, do not set the example of good health and fitness, how can you expect anyone else to? It’s time to practice what you preach. You can accomplish this goal by
• Maintaining a normal weight for your height and age.
• Eating a healthy diet.
• Maintaining good hygiene.
• Keeping physically fit.
• Eliminating unhealthy habits (smoking, and more).
• Managing current medical issues in a timely fashion.
It’s important to “tune up” any chronic problems that you might currently have. You’ll want to have your blood pressure under control, for example. If you have a bum knee, you might consider getting it repaired surgically so that you can function at maximum efficiency if times get tough. Use modern technology while it is available.
Dental problems should also be managed before bad times make modern dentistry unavailable. Remember how your last toothache affected your work efficiency? If you don’t work to achieve all of the above goals, your preparations will be useless.
This plan is important for your mental health as well. Just doing crossword puzzles or reading a newspaper will help keep your mind sharp. Remember that a mind is a terrible thing to waste. Don’t waste yours.
If you have bad habits, work to eliminate them. If you damage your heart and lungs by smoking, how will you be able to function in a situation where your fitness and stamina will be continually tested? If you drink alcohol in excess or use drugs, how can you expect anyone to trust your judgment in critical situations?
Paying careful attention to hygiene is also an important factor for your success in times of trouble. Those who fail to maintain sanitary conditions in their retreat will have a difficult time staying healthy. In a collapse, infections usually seen only in underdeveloped countries will become commonplace, and essential medical supplies will include things like soap and bleach.
These two basic strategies, fostering community and practicing preventive medicine and fitness, will take you a long way in your journey to preparedness. They don’t cost anything to speak of and will give you the best chance of succeeding if everything else fails.