Top 13 First Aid Skills Every Prepper And Survivalist Should Learn – Part I

As the healthcare system in the United States teeters on the edge of collapse, the landscape of medical assistance grows increasingly uncertain. With a surge in hospital closures and a dwindling number of medical professionals, the accessibility and quality of healthcare have taken a sharp downturn. Appointments are delayed, consultations are rushed, and the overall standard of care is compromised.

In an ideal scenario, the need for first aid skills would be minimal. However, reality often proves otherwise. Accidents happen, emergencies arise, and being equipped with the knowledge of basic medical care becomes paramount.

When traditional avenues of healthcare falter, the ability to provide immediate assistance can mean the difference between life and death. Thus, fostering proficiency in various first aid techniques becomes not just advantageous but indispensable in navigating the uncertainties of a collapsing medical infrastructure.

First Aid Skills You Should Learn:

1. CPR

CPR, or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation, is a crucial first aid skill aimed at sustaining the vital functions of a person whose heartbeat or breathing has stopped. Here’s what it entails, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly executed:

What it implies: CPR involves a series of chest compressions and rescue breaths designed to manually circulate blood and oxygen throughout the body when the heart and lungs are unable to do so effectively. The goal is to maintain the oxygen supply to the brain and vital organs until professional medical help arrives.

Why it’s needed: CPR is essential in emergencies such as cardiac arrest, drowning, choking, or severe trauma where the person’s heart has stopped or they are not breathing. Prompt initiation of CPR can significantly increase the chances of survival and minimize the risk of brain damage or organ failure.

How it can be properly done: Proper execution of CPR involves the following steps:

  1. Check the scene: Ensure the area is safe for both you and the victim before approaching.
  2. Check responsiveness: Gently tap the person and shout to check if they respond. If there’s no response, they are not breathing normally, or only gasping, begin CPR immediately.
  3. Call for help: If there’s someone nearby, instruct them to call emergency services (911 or local equivalent) while you begin CPR.
  4. Perform chest compressions: Place the heel of one hand on the center of the person’s chest (usually between the nipples), and place the other hand on top. Interlock your fingers and position your body directly over your hands. Push hard and fast, aiming for a rate of about 100-120 compressions per minute.
  5. Deliver rescue breaths: Tilt the person’s head back slightly and lift the chin to open the airway. Pinch the nose shut and create a seal over the person’s mouth with yours. Give two breaths, each lasting about one second, and watch for the chest to rise.
  6. Continue cycles of compressions and breaths: Perform cycles of 30 chest compressions followed by two rescue breaths. Continue until the person shows signs of life, emergency medical services take over, or you are physically unable to continue.

Regular training and certification in CPR are recommended to ensure proficiency and stay updated on the latest guidelines and techniques.

2. Stopping Severe Bleeding

stopping severe bleeding

Stopping severe bleeding is another critical first aid skill that can be life-saving in emergency situations. Here’s a breakdown of what it involves, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly done:

What it implies: Severe bleeding can result from injuries such as deep cuts, lacerations, or trauma. The primary goal of stopping severe bleeding is to control the flow of blood to prevent excessive blood loss, which can lead to shock, organ damage, or death.

Why it’s needed: Severe bleeding can be life-threatening within minutes if left uncontrolled. By promptly stopping the bleeding, you can help stabilize the person’s condition and buy time until professional medical help arrives.

How it can be properly done:

  1. Assess the situation: Ensure your safety and that of the injured person before providing assistance. If there’s any danger present, such as ongoing violence or hazardous materials, prioritize removing yourself and the victim from harm’s way.
  2. Apply direct pressure: Locate the source of bleeding and apply direct pressure to the wound with a clean cloth, bandage, or your hands if necessary. Press firmly on the wound and maintain steady pressure to help control bleeding.
  3. Elevate the wound: If possible, elevate the injured area above the level of the heart to reduce blood flow to the area and further aid in controlling bleeding. However, avoid elevating if it causes significant pain or worsens the injury.
  4. Apply pressure points: If direct pressure alone is insufficient to stop the bleeding, apply pressure to pressure points along the artery leading to the injured area. Common pressure points include the brachial artery (upper arm), femoral artery (groin), or carotid artery (neck). Press firmly with your fingers until help arrives.
  5. Use a tourniquet as a last resort: If bleeding cannot be controlled by direct pressure or pressure points, and the situation is life-threatening, consider using a tourniquet. Apply the tourniquet several inches above the wound, between the wound and the heart, and tighten it until the bleeding stops. Note the time the tourniquet was applied and communicate this information to emergency responders.
  6. Monitor the person’s condition: Continuously assess the person’s vital signs and level of consciousness while providing first aid. Stay with them until professional medical help arrives.

It’s important to remember that stopping severe bleeding may require immediate action and decisive measures. However, always prioritize your safety and follow appropriate precautions to minimize the risk of further injury to yourself or the victim.

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3. Cleaning and closing a wound

Cleaning and closing a wound is a fundamental first aid skill that helps prevent infection and promote healing. Here’s what it entails, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly done:

What it implies: Cleaning and closing a wound involves removing debris and bacteria from the injured area, then closing the wound to protect it from further contamination and promote optimal healing.

Why it’s needed: Proper wound care is essential to prevent infection, which can lead to complications and delay healing. Cleaning the wound removes dirt, bacteria, and foreign objects that can cause infection, while closing the wound helps to bring the edges together for faster healing and reduced scarring.

How it can be properly done:

  1. Prepare the area: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to minimize the risk of introducing germs to the wound. Put on disposable gloves if available to further reduce the risk of infection.
  2. Clean the wound: Gently rinse the wound with clean water or a mild saline solution to remove dirt, debris, and bacteria. Avoid using harsh antiseptics or hydrogen peroxide, as these can damage the surrounding tissue and delay healing. If there are embedded particles or large debris that cannot be easily removed, seek medical attention.
  3. Apply an antiseptic: Once the wound is clean, apply a thin layer of antiseptic ointment or solution to help prevent infection. Use a clean cotton swab or gauze pad to apply the antiseptic, being careful not to introduce new contaminants to the wound.
  4. Close the wound: If the wound is deep or gaping, it may need to be closed with adhesive strips, butterfly bandages, or wound closure strips to bring the edges together and promote healing. Ensure that the wound is dry before applying any closures, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper application.
  5. Cover the wound: Once the wound is cleaned and closed, cover it with a sterile dressing or adhesive bandage to protect it from further contamination and promote healing. Change the dressing regularly, at least once a day or as needed, to keep the wound clean and dry.
  6. Monitor for signs of infection: Keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, pain, warmth, or discharge. If you notice any signs of infection or if the wound does not heal properly, seek medical attention promptly.

Proper wound care is essential for preventing complications and promoting optimal healing. If you’re unsure about how to clean and close a wound, or if the wound is severe or contaminated, seek medical attention for professional evaluation and treatment.

4. Using a tourniquet

using a tourniquet

Using a tourniquet is a critical first-aid skill for controlling severe bleeding in emergency situations. Here’s what it entails, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly done:

What it implies: A tourniquet is a device used to apply pressure to a limb to stop bleeding by constricting blood flow to the injured area. It’s typically used as a last resort when direct pressure and other measures have failed to control severe bleeding.

Why it’s needed: Severe bleeding from a limb can be life-threatening if not promptly controlled. A tourniquet can quickly and effectively stop blood loss, preventing shock, organ damage, and death. It’s crucial in situations where bleeding cannot be controlled by other means, and immediate action is necessary to save a person’s life.

How it can be properly done:

  1. Assess the situation: Determine if the bleeding is severe and cannot be controlled by direct pressure or other methods. If the situation is life-threatening and immediate action is required to prevent further blood loss, proceed with applying a tourniquet.
  2. Select and apply the tourniquet: Choose a wide and durable tourniquet, such as a commercial tourniquet or an improvised device like a belt or strip of cloth. Place the tourniquet around the limb, between the wound and the heart, several inches above the bleeding site.
  3. Tighten the tourniquet: Pull the tourniquet tight enough to stop the bleeding but not so tight that it causes additional injury or discomfort. The tourniquet should be snug and secure, with enough pressure to completely occlude blood flow to the limb.
  4. Secure the tourniquet: Once the tourniquet is tightened, secure it in place to prevent it from loosening or slipping. Use the provided locking mechanism or tie a secure knot if using an improvised tourniquet.
  5. Note the time: Remember to note the time the tourniquet was applied, as this information is essential for medical professionals when determining further treatment and assessing the risk of complications.
  6. Seek medical help: After applying the tourniquet, seek professional medical assistance as soon as possible. Tourniquets are not a definitive treatment for severe bleeding and should be used as a temporary measure until the person can receive proper medical care.

It’s important to use a tourniquet only as a last resort when other methods of bleeding control have failed or are not feasible. Improper use of a tourniquet can cause tissue damage, nerve injury, and other complications, so proper training and understanding of when and how to use a tourniquet are essential. Additionally, remember to remove the tourniquet as soon as professional medical help arrives, as prolonged use can lead to further complications.

5. Treating Burns

Treating burns is an essential first-aid skill that can minimize pain, prevent infection, and promote healing. Here’s what it involves, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly done:

What it implies: Treating burns involves providing immediate care to minimize damage to the skin and surrounding tissue, relieve pain, and prevent infection. Burns can result from various sources, including heat, chemicals, electricity, or radiation.

Why it’s needed: Burns can cause significant pain, tissue damage, and complications such as infection if not promptly and properly treated. Immediate first aid can help alleviate pain, reduce the extent of the burn, and improve outcomes for the injured person.

How it can be properly done:

  1. Assess the severity: Determine the extent and depth of the burn to guide appropriate treatment. Burns are typically classified into three categories: first-degree (superficial), second-degree (partial thickness), and third-degree (full thickness). Seek medical attention for severe burns or burns affecting the face, hands, feet, or genitals or if the person is experiencing difficulty breathing.
  2. Cool the burn: Immediately cool the burn with cool (not cold) running water for at least 10-20 minutes to reduce pain and minimize tissue damage. Avoid using ice or ice water, as this can further damage the skin.
  3. Remove restrictive items: Remove any clothing, jewelry, or other items from the burned area unless they are stuck to the skin. However, do not attempt to remove anything that is stuck to the burn, as this can cause further injury.
  4. Protect the burn: Cover the burn with a clean, dry dressing or sterile gauze to protect it from further contamination and reduce the risk of infection. Avoid using cotton balls or fluffy materials that may stick to the wound.
  5. Manage pain: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with minor burns. Follow the recommended dosage instructions and precautions.
  6. Seek medical attention if necessary: Seek medical attention for burns that are large, deep, or severe, or if there are signs of infection such as increased pain, swelling, redness, or discharge. Medical treatment may include cleaning and dressing the burn, prescription medications, and specialized care for severe burns.

Proper first aid for burns can help alleviate pain, minimize tissue damage, and promote healing. However, severe or extensive burns require prompt medical attention to prevent complications and ensure optimal outcomes. If in doubt, always seek professional medical help for burn injuries.

6. Treating a person in Shock

treating a person in shock

Treating a person in shock is a crucial first aid skill that requires prompt action to stabilize their condition and prevent further deterioration. Here’s what it entails, why it’s needed, and how it can be properly done:

What it implies: Shock is a life-threatening condition where the body’s vital organs are not receiving enough blood flow, leading to inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply. Treating a person in shock involves restoring blood flow and addressing the underlying cause of the condition.

Why it’s needed: Shock can result from various causes, including severe injury, trauma, bleeding, dehydration, allergic reactions, or severe infections. Without prompt treatment, shock can lead to organ failure and death. First aid aims to stabilize the person’s condition and buy time until advanced medical care is available.

How it can be properly done:

  1. Assess the person’s condition: Look for signs and symptoms of shock, including pale or clammy skin, rapid or weak pulse, shallow breathing, confusion, dizziness, nausea, or fainting. If you suspect shock, act quickly to provide assistance.
  2. Position the person: Lay the person down on their back with their legs elevated, if possible, to improve blood flow to vital organs. Elevate the legs about 12 inches unless this causes discomfort or exacerbates any injuries.
  3. Maintain body temperature: Cover the person with a blanket or clothing to keep them warm and prevent heat loss, which can exacerbate shock. However, avoid overheating the person, as this can lead to further complications.
  4. Monitor vital signs: Continuously assess the person’s vital signs, including pulse, breathing rate, and level of consciousness. If the person stops breathing or their heart stops beating, perform CPR immediately.
  5. Provide reassurance: Talk to the person in a calm and reassuring manner to help alleviate anxiety and stress. Let them know that help is on the way and encourage them to stay calm and still.
  6. Treat underlying causes: If possible, identify and address the underlying cause of shock, such as controlling bleeding, administering fluids for dehydration, or treating allergic reactions or infections. However, prioritize stabilizing the person’s condition and seek professional medical help as soon as possible.

Treating a person in shock requires quick and decisive action to stabilize their condition and prevent further complications. While first aid measures can help buy time, professional medical evaluation and treatment are essential for addressing the underlying cause of shock and ensuring the person’s recovery. If in doubt, always seek emergency medical assistance for a person in shock.


To be continued

In the second part of this article, we will discuss the other life-saving first aid skills that not only preppers, but every average Joe should learn. So stay tuned and follow us on social media.

This article has been written by James H. Redford MD for Prepper’s Will.

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