What is an IFAK and Why Every Prepper Should Have One?
I have said this many times, but I will say it again as preppers the most important thing we can get is knowledge. This is kind of late as my wife and I had done an IFAK class through Independence Training, a company out of Arizona, during my hiatus from the site in January. For those that don’t know what an IFAK is, it is an Individual First Aid Kit and it is very important. We also took our concealed weapon and gun safety course with them. They are a great company that I highly recommend. Even though they don’t call themselves preppers, they are all about keeping yourself trained and ready for any situations, whether they be daily situations or catastrophic situations.
Many times we see premade first aid kits that usually consist of bandaids, gauze, pain relievers, and other minorly useful things, but they usually don’t contain the more important lifesaving items. An IFAK is an emergency kit that can keep you or someone else alive when there is a situation that requires the stoppage of potentially lethal bleeding. As a person who really has little experience with first aid and medical training, this was a great first course to understand some of the basics to first aid.
*MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: I am not a trained medical professional, I am simply sharing the most important lessons I learned from an Individual First Aid class I took in January. Consult a licensed medical professional for any and all medical concerns and/or emergencies. All procedures are done at your own risk.*
In any first aid situation, there are basically four main things to assess. Is the patient bleeding to death, is the patient breathing, is the airway clear, and does the patient have a pulse. Once you answer these questions you will know what to do. Being that the number one priority is stopping blood loss, knowing when a gash is life threatening or not and knowing how to use an IFAK is very important.
In order to figure out if the patient is bleeding to death, you need to assess where the blood is coming from. There are three types of bleeding: arterial, venous and capillary. Arterial bleeding is the only one you need to worry about in regard to life and death. Arterial bleeding will be coming from either the carotid artery in the neck, the brachial artery in the arm or the femoral artery in the leg. Some of the visual signs if you don’t specifically know where those arteries are, is a spurting of blood, a pumping of blood (it will be pumping with the heartbeat, meaning it’s coming from the heart instead of going to it), and soaking and pooling of blood. A lot of bloody injuries look life-threatening because there’s a lot of blood, or because the gash is huge and nasty-looking, but really, those aren’t injuries to pull your tourniquet out for. However, we also learned that if you have a tourniquet and there’s a lot of blood and you’re not sure whether to use it or not, USE IT, it could save that person’s life. Although they hurt, the chance of losing a limb from a tourniquet is much lower than dying from blood loss.
If the patient isn’t breathing, that probably means something is lodged in his/her throat. Assess the mouth to see if you can visually see something in the mouth or throat. If you can, try to get it out. The tongue is the most common cause of airway obstruction, so check that first and then continue to assess the situation until you find out what’s wrong or medical help arrives.
If the patient doesn’t have a pulse, CPR should be started immediately. I would highly recommend taking a CPR class because you never know when it could come in handy. Most classes teach it a little differently, but they’ll all teach you the amount of pressure you should be using and how many repetitions you should do. Basically, the more training you do in any of these areas, the more effective you’ll be when the need arises.
One of the items in the IFAK was a chest seal. We were told to use this if there is a hole in the chest between the collar bone and the belly button. The chest seal is used to cover the hole so that air does not get into the chest cavity and collapse the lung(s). It’s essentially a big sticker that covers the whole area around the wound and does not allow air to get in or out and must be used on both the entrance and exit of the wound (if applicable). This wound would most typically be a stab or bullet wound, but could be from other punctures as well.
The IFAK does not have to be some giant medical kit. The one I received in the class easily fits in any backpack or purse and the instructor even had his own pocket IFAK. My IFAK consisted of:
- Molle Pouch to carry the equipment
- Nitrile Gloves for your own protection
- Medical Shears for removing clothes
- CAT Tourniquet to stop life threatening arterial wounds
- 4” Israeli Bandages to use on bleeding wounds
- Celox hemostatic granules to chemically control and stop bleeding
- Halo Chest Seal to seal open chest wounds such as gun shots
- Compressed gauze to be used with the celox and bandages to stop bleeding
- Medical Tape (basically just sterile duct tape) for keeping bandages on
So as you can see, your IFAK does not have to be too extensive and can be done quite inexpensively(under $100). There are many different types of tourniquets, bandages, bleeding control chemicals and chest seals, but these are some of the best on the market, which is why they were recommended.
If I had just bought an IFAK and taken a look at the components I probably may have been able to figure them out, but having someone not only be able to tell you how to use them, but also when to use them is very important. Now even though I may still not be a pro at all these things I know the basics to be able to determine whether a person is going to bleed out or whether it may just look bad, but will not be life threatening. So knowing when to actually use a tourniquet is very valuable as it is usually a last resort medical device.
One of the other valuable things I learned from this class is the correct way to do CPR. Mouth to mouth is no longer recommended. So this class was really a two for one as I was able to learn about how and when to use the components of the IFAK, but also how to open the airway if something is lodged in there and how to give proper CPR. Essentially this was not a class to make someone better; this was a class to keep them alive until they were able to get proper care.
So how is this really valuable to a prepper or survivalist in a TEOTWAWKI scenario? There will most likely be doctors around that may either revert to older techniques of surgery or you may even be lucky enough to have a place that has electricity provided by alternative fuels to allow for medical devices to be used. As this is not just a prepper blog, but also a survival blog this is very important for survival.
The lesson to be learned is that your most important asset is the knowledge you have and the amount of practice you have in it. I feel this class was one of the most important classes I have taken and I would recommend a class like this to anybody. It seems that in the prepper community, many people do not know much about the first aid and medical side of prepping and I feel that I was one of those. I think many times we don’t know what we will need or don’t know much about medicine so we try to put together a first aid kit but really don’t have the knowledge to do it effectively. So make sure if you don’t know much about first aid that you get some help. There are many RNs and Nurse Practitioners, as well as a great site called http://www.doomandbloom.net/ that really know a lot about medicine as the husband is an MD and the wife is a Nurse Practitioner. So if you haven’t seen their website yet, check it out as they have some great articles about first aid during a TEOTWAWKI situation. I am glad to share any info I can give, but I am by no means a professional in the medical field so be sure to keep learning as I think this is the most ignored part of prepping.