Home Defense Risk: Learn to Prepare for Medical Emergencies

Let us start this article with a couple of questions. First, when was the last time a gun was needed to mount a defense of life? Second, when was the last time a bandage was needed in the home, or when was it necessary to go to the emergency department of a local hospital? Chances are most have made more visits to the ER over needing a gun to deal with a situation. Now, let us take the logic a step further.
Law-abiding citizens arm themselves for defense because they realize that the police are incapable of being there the moment they are needed. Think about it. It would be better for a trained police officer to deal with a criminal rather than a homeowner who has had minimal training and little experience in such matters. However, lethal threats play out in seconds while police response is always measured in minutes. Therefore, citizens acquire guns that are the tool of defense in lethal threat encounters of a violent nature. For those who choose not to arm themselves, they are wholly dependent upon police response to save them from such things as a home invasion.
The trips made to the ER are because it is the place where people have advanced knowledge and skills to help us survive other lethal threat encounters such as a heart attack or bleeding from an artery due to an accident at home. As the gun can be used as a tool to defend lives from criminals intent on causing grave bodily harm or murder, there are tools we can put into play to defend self and family from medical emergencies. As it is important to acquire knowledge and skills to be able to successfully use a gun during a violent lethal threat, it is equally important to acquire medical skills to use tools that can be kept at home for medical emergencies.
The doctors at the hospitals have the advanced training to deal with medical emergencies just as police officers are trained and experienced in dealing with threat encounters. It is better to have immediate access to a doctor, but that is not how it works. It often takes quite a bit of time for a victim of even an extreme emergency to be seen by a doctor. A trained person rendering immediate aid can save a life.
It is this author’s goal to get every person who is smart enough to keep a gun at home for defense to also recognize the importance of acquiring tools and the skills to use them for medical emergencies that are much more likely to happen. The hope is that preparations put in place to mitigate violent crime risk will not stop there but go on to cover other risks that are much more likely to occur.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2011 indicates that rates of violent crimes have declined by four percent over occurrences reported in 2010. Take a look around your own neighborhood or even your own home. How many times over the years has there been a need to go to an emergency medical treatment facility versus how many times a gun was needed? This simple personal statistic that can be easily calculated should be the impetus to begin preparations for what is likely to happen rather than what one is afraid might happen.
Take the time to write out an assessment of each person’s medical knowledge and skills who reside in the home. Preteens, depending on their physical and emotional development, can be taught First Aid and CPR. In the assessment, be sure to record what is held as fact by some residents but is nevertheless false. This may not be known until the principle person in the home who is responsible for family preparation plans gets trained. In any given home where no professional medical training has occurred, there can be quite a bit of false medical information present that is believed to be true. Much of it has to due with useless and sometimes harmful home remedy treatments and the spread of pathogens along with erroneous information about vaccines and other things.
For example, a popular myth is that it is possible to catch the influenza virus from the annual trivalent influenza vaccine used that contains killed influenza virus strains. It is impossible to catch the flu from dead virus components. What happens is that some people who have been vaccinated get another illness or even in rare instances get infected from a flu strain not covered by the vaccine. Not every strain of influenza is covered in the annual vaccination.
The vaccine can cause a local reaction at the injection site and as the immune response in some people ramps up as antibodies are being formed, it may cause mild symptoms to manifest. However, it is far from actually what happens when the real flu is caught. These people then spread the tale that they caught the flu from the inactivated (killed) influenza vaccine they received. It then generates a fear response in others who have little to no knowledge of how vaccines work.
The Live Attenuated Influenza Virus (LAIV) nasal spray vaccine contains live influenza virus strains that have been cold adapted and weakened. They can grow in the cooler nasal passages but not deeper in the respiratory tract where it is warmer. People who choose this form of vaccine can get some mild flu-like symptoms but nothing near what the real flu causes. Still, a person who receives this type of vaccine will often share every little symptom that popped up after receiving the vaccine. Each story makes others fearful. It is easy to look up stories where someone had symptoms of the flu after being vaccinated, whereas it is not possible to give a real number of those who lived because the vaccine helped their own immune systems protect them from a lethal influenza infection.
The need for individuals and families to take it upon themselves to get trained exists more today than it ever has. Emergency departments at hospitals are understaffed and overwhelmed. Ambulance companies that dispatch trained paramedics and EMTs in well-equipped vehicles are going defunct everywhere due to lack of supporting funds. Training is available to equip the average person to handle a great deal of medical emergencies at least as a first responder. Trained first responders save lives. Think about it. Is it effective to have someone hold your head as you lie there on the ground unconscious and just scream for help? Would it not be better to have yourself and family members trained to respond correctly to medical emergencies that manifest and have professional tools on hand to deal with the situation?
We have all seen news footage of family members crying out for someone to come and help in an emergency. The stories always have those who scream and cry and run about with no plan, no skills, no equipment as someone close by is bleeding out or otherwise dying of something that could possibly be corrected with a few simple skills and simple tools. Even an automatic external defibrillator (AED) is a simple tool. It is nothing more than a plastic box with batteries, electronics and a big sticker with electrodes that get stuck to a bare chest. Sensors pick up the electrical rhythm of the heart and a program recognizes abnormal heart rhythms that could benefit from a controlled electric shock to reset them. The neat thing is they are available to keep at home.
Tools cost money. There is no question of that. Good tools cost even more money. This author has received emails for years from readers who talk about the guns they keep at home, asking questions about what guns to keep for home defense and how to get good training. Some readers have obviously spent a fortune on a collection of guns with no mention of acquiring tools to save the lives of their spouses and children in a disaster situation when hospitals become overwhelmed or are taken out by the disaster itself.
It has become ingrained in the typical reader of this type of article that a violent crime is sudden and is over in seconds. The readers know that on a good day, the police will take minutes to arrive to help. Knowing this, they go out and buy a gun to be able to have a tool to mount a defense if violence should come to visit. These same readers who prepare to defend against violent crime are by and large too complacent relying on the established medical system to save them in the event of an emergency. Couple that with relative good health and no experience ever rendering aid to a victim of a medical emergency and preparations go unmade. The ambulance is just a 911 phone call away, and the hospital is just a few minutes down the road.
However, a routine accident with a power tool or collapsing from a heart attack can bring about death  long before help can arrive. A person can bleed out from an arterial bleed before 911 even answers. Lack of oxygen to the brain that occurs while a 911 operator is trying to instruct someone how to perform CPR makes it even more likely that the victim will not survive. Just as it is necessary to respond to a violent lethal threat quickly and with sufficient force to neutralize it, the same holds true for responding to a lethal medical threat.
The ways to successfully defend against medical emergencies is first by prevention. This is similar to an alarm system on the house. It warns of the threat. Safety protocols should be in place and be inviolate for things such as swimming pools, power equipment and medications kept in the house. The second is to put the existing system in motion. Experts say to keep a cell phone close by at all times to be able to call the police and have them on their way if something such as a home break in occurs. The medical system needs to be put in motion when medical emergencies occur too. The third thing, which can end up being primary depending on the situation, is having the training and tools to deal with the emergency. If an intruder breaks into a home in the middle of the night, home defenders keep a gun to stop the threat. What tools are available at home to deal with medical emergencies? Have you even considered buying real medical gear and saving to purchase an AED or other pricier medical emergency gear?
A 12 gauge shotgun is a popular home defense gun. A decent one can be had for around $300. Celox is a granular hemostatic agent that is capable of stopping major arterial bleeding. It is not like the old hemostatic agents that can cause more trouble than they are sometimes worth, so be sure to stick to the facts surrounding this product rather than lumping it into a class of hemostatic agents. The 15 gram packets of Celox in granule form costs about $15 each. Every home and daily carry kit that should go with a person should have a couple of packets at a minimum. For five percent of the cost of a shotgun, a product could be kept on hand that could stop bleeding caused by a shotgun blast.
It is important to get training before buying gear. Those who jump the gun (pun intended) often end up with useless items or expensive boo-boo kits that are of little use in an extreme medical emergency. However, I am also not talking about keeping things on hand exclusive to advanced medical care facilities. It would be silly for a family to keep something such as an old ultrasound machine on hand that was purchased at an auction. Rather, the medical gear should be geared toward dealing with situations within the scope of training of the individuals using the gear and the real life situations likely to occur.
Just as a kit used by a paramedic would have advanced gear such as IV’s and other things, it is possible for a family to advance beyond the Band-Aid filled first-aid kit into something better. They may be unlikely to ever need or even know how to use some gear carried by paramedics, but they are capable of being trained to do more than just apply the latest Sesame Street version of a Band-Aid to a cut.
How to use an AED is covered in most CPR courses. In fact, they are easy enough for a novice to deploy one by just following the step-by-step voice and printed instructions that are included with the machines. In other words, your young child or grandchild could end up saving your life just because of having a piece of kit hanging on the wall. This is so important that those with known heart issues should do their best to acquire one to keep close by. I include this because many of the emails I receive are from folks up in years who share with me some of the medical issues they are dealing with.
I encourage everyone who has not acquired any training to handle medical emergencies to at least check out the Red Cross website and search for classes in their area. This advice also applies to anyone whose re-certifications may have lapsed. A lot has changed over the years. If you had CPR training years ago, there is a new method that is hands-only CPR and does not require mouth-to-mouth breathing. An adult and pediatric first-aid, CPR and AED course is about a hundred bucks per person. For about $500, one can take a course to become a certified instructor. The Red Cross also offers training in Pet and Wilderness and Remote First-Aid.
Some have had training and would like to delve further into what can be done when there is no doctor available. There are popular publications available based on the “No Doctor” premise. They can assist in preparing to deal with medical situations that occur during a protracted disaster situation when the medical infrastructure is weakened or nonexistent, plunging the population into the same level of medical care experienced by residents of third-world countries.
The publications are available for a nominal fee from the publisher, Hesperian Health Guides. The publisher is a non-profit organization that helps educate people around the world. The publisher is supported by those who buy the books. They do provide a very valuable resource to the world. Those who desire to read the books should buy printed copies. However, for those readers who are on an extremely tight budget, the books can be acquired in electronic format at no charge. Even if one cannot afford the full cost of a printed book, please consider a small donation to the publisher so they may continue their work. Realize, that just downloading one book costs the publisher Internet bandwidth fees. Most prefer printed books because the first thing to go out in a disaster is the electricity. Books do not need batteries so are always ready to be consulted for information.
A few of my favorites available in print or electronic form include:
When There is No Doctor
When There Is No Dentist
When Women Have No Doctor
Water For Life
For those who are serious about putting together a real first-aid kit that goes beyond just Band-Aids and an Ace Bandage, consider a quality wilderness medical kit. Mine is from Wilderness Medical Systems. I did a product review of one of their Denali kits a few years back. I have added to it, making it a custom kit we have used on more than one occasion. In addition to the Celox seen in the photo, I have added several rolls of 3M Vet Wrap along with other things I anticipate a need for in emergency medical situations. The vet wrap has a plenty of uses in a first-aid kit and is quite a bit less expensive than the sport’s wrap type of bandaging tape which is the same thing. Neither is sterile, so it does not matter. It is used to bind sterile bandages in place.
From the comment about the 3M Vet Wrap, the savvy reader will realize that there are resource alternatives that are equal to human equivalents and are available at a much lower price. It is up to the individual to be fully aware what he or she is both doing or buying. Never assume when it comes to health and safety. Always consult your own health care professional first. Make inquiries about specific items planned to be purchased and what training would be beneficial considering your family’s unique medical situation. This is nothing to fool around with. However, one should not be crippled into doing nothing. Understand that neither skill nor experience comes overnight, making it even more necessary to not put off this very important part about home defense any longer.

This is an old photo, when my Denali Wilderness Medical Kit was new. You can see the Celox which was first extra item added to the kit. If you decide to get a kit from Wilderness Medical Systems, it will likely be Donna von Nieda you deal with. She can help put together custom kits based on needs. Tell her I said hi.
A shotgun kept at home behind a door with a solid deadbolt is a matter of routine throughout the US for homes that desire to be prepared to defend. A medical emergency is an enemy threat on par with a gun-wielding intruder. What preparations have you made to deal with medical emergencies? What training have you acquired? Do you have professional tools at home, at the office and even carried on your person to deal with medical emergencies? Most everyone carries some sort of bag as a matter of regular routine today whether it be a backpack, purse or briefcase. A few acquired skill sets and a small kit of carefully chosen gear can save lives.
Do not attempt to render aid beyond your training. It negates any coverage under Good Samaritan Laws. Be smart and do something about being prepared to deal with things that are likely to happen. So many are on the Internet talking about societal collapse and how to prepare for a complete breakdown in support infrastructure from food distribution to police protection. Realize that on the best of days when the electricity is on, the water is flowing from the taps, the hospitals are open and doctors are on call that an accident can still happen. There is something you can do to help immediately if you learn what it is that needs to be done and have the tools to do it right. Being able to render effective aid during a medical emergency is real help. Being only prepared to scream, “Help me!” is not an effective plan.
Cody S. Alderson is a long-time regular contributor to The United States Concealed Carry Association. He is a private consultant and author based in southwestern Pennsylvania. Cody invites you to visit his website at www.aldersonarts.com.
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