Author of The Dark Secrets of SHTF Survival and the online course SHTF Survival Boot Camp
The reality of medical preparedness is that people often waste a lot of money on things that they don’t need or do not know how to use. The purpose of this article is not to reduce the importance or quality of the previous article about stocking up on medical supplies. I find it more as a continuation of that article, perhaps taking a different angle on medical kits, preps, skills etc.
First, here is some background on me. I have been in the emergency medical field for many years. Some of those years were as a combat medic, and others were as a civilian without enough medical stash who was still trying to help.
And I still cannot say I can give you definitive advice about many things, simply because many situations are very specific and so on and so on.
BUT some general advices have to be said here, and a lot of these I have written before. But it needs to be repeated ,again and again. It can save your life, or life of your family member.
Obtaining medical knowledge
You have to spend a lot of time to become a medical practitioner of any kind. Higher levels requires longer time of learning, testing, practicing, etc.
For some level of confidence in practicing certain skills, I needed many months of learning and long practice. And only after that, I could say, “I know that.” So, what I am trying to say here is this: Do not expect to be a master of survival medicine after one book you read, or few videos you watched.
The system of learning is there for a reason: it takes time.
So what can you do?
You have to think outside of the box and work smart. You probably do not have time or money or will to spend years to become a physician. But for medical preparedness, you still need to start from the foundation.
The foundation of medical preparedness
Let me be clear. The foundation is not immediately learning some fancy skill which is very very often useless. The foundation should be knowledge, data, information…and then later skills.
If you jump on YouTube and look for survival medicine skills, or SHTF medicine or similar you’ll find a whole bunch of advice and tons of techniques, but these simply may not work for you.
So my general medical preps advice is to focus on your own settings.
In essence, this means to build your medical preparedness around what kind of medical issues you already have in your home (family,group…) or what kind of medical issues you might expect once when the SHTF.
That means if you and your husband or someone else in your circle has high blood pressure problems, it makes much more sense to spend your time learning everything about that condition, the drugs that work for it, stocking up on those drugs, reading and researching everything that is available about drug substitutes for that condition for the time when drugs run out, and so on and so on.
All of the above makes much more sense for you to learn before you go on to fancy skills about taking care of an amputated leg. You will need much more often and much earlier everything that you have learned and prepped for your existing medical conditions.
So start from your own medical conditions, then the conditions of people in your family or group, etc. Cover that first as much as it is possible.
Start with the basics of medical preparedness
Basics. Always start with basics. No matter how that looks irrelevant to you, you’ll see that in real life SHTF situations that going back to ( already learned) basics will save your situation many times.
Cover the basics first very well, learn it well, and stock up well on basic stuff for medical preparedness first. Only after that go up to more complicated skills and preps. Always remember, however cool some prep or skill might look, be marketed, or be presented you need to cover the basics first!
An example of the basics here for me could be hygiene. Cover very well your hygiene preps before going to medical preps. Hygiene (sanitation, disinfection, and cleaning…) is very often overlooked in the prepper world and it is the number one thing that will kill you. It is the thing that you gonna have the first problem with once the SHTF.
Check it, test it, learn how to use it.
This goes for most of the medical kits I have seen people own. They simply never test the stuff inside! They have it but have no idea how to use it.
I like to use this comparison here: Most preppers are very familiar with their weapons. They use them often at shooting ranges. They test them, they upgrade them, they exchange experiences with other preppers about their weapons, and what not…
It makes sense, right, because that gun will save your life?
I very very rarely see people testing stuff from their medical kits and exchanging experiences between themselves (unless we are talking about the fixation about tourniquets in some FB groups).
And your med kit definitely might save your life, right?
But you never tested how good is that compression bandage or those scissors from the bag – are they useful? Have you ever tested how logically everything is organized in your bag? How easy is it to go through all that gear in an emergency in order to find something very quickly?
Make your own medical kit.
“DO things (prepare, stock up., learn…) that work for YOU”
Memorize the words above! Preparing for SHTF can be general in some things. It can be understanding the principles of certain topics. Everything else is very personalized. So when it comes to your medical stash or medical kits, make your own. I have seen hundreds of first aid kits owned by my students. Probably 95 percent of those were cheap junk, brand new, and never tested.
And preppers bought it probably because they read the list of what is inside it, not by checking out what that means in reality.
Here are two examples of what was in the medical kit, and what should be.
On the right side are “emergency scissors” found in a prepackaged first-aid kit. On the left side is what you should have actually.
The small “medical tape” is found in a prepackaged kit. The big one is actually “medical tape”
This topic needs to be simplified on few things basically:
Start with the foundation again. That means you need to start with knowledge too, and no you do not have to have years of medical school, because we are talking about the SHTF, so you’ll use shortcuts.
Foundation means knowledge first so start with some basic books about how drugs work, in what dosage, to what patients, and so on and so on.
So get a book like this one: Nursing 2022 Drug Handbook.
You are doing it at your own risk, of course, because if you are not a trained medical professional. You’re gonna have higher chances to make mistakes BUT we are talking about the SHTF here, and most probably about situations where you gonna be only and highest medical help.
So of course risks are there but what else can you do?
There are many over-the-counter medications you can find on this list that can help with less serious issues.
After covering the basics and foundation there are skills you should learn. Now, there are cool skills and skills that are maybe not cool but very important.
Again, of course, you should not do IV medicine administration, and it is against the law if you are not a medical practitioner.
But guess what?
Nobody is gonna care once the SHTF. So yes, if it is possible, learn it. It is not rocket science. Some risks are there, but if you are not ready to take risks you’ll learn nothing.
How is your medical preparedness?
Is your medical kit specific to your family? Have you gotten any advanced training? Have you ever used your tools or opened the packages? Or is everything in a neatly packaged, pre-made kit?
Let us discuss medical preparedness in the comments.
Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution.
In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless of what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations as Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months.
- Read more of Selco’s articles here.
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Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.
I have first aid kits. In the kitchen where I am most likely to burn or cut myself. I have a plastic container- ( top off, cause who wants to be fiddling with a top when you are injured ) with 4 x 4 and 2 x 2 gauze and 3/4 and larger band aids. I also have burn gel.
The other first aid kit I made and his housed in a tool box- I love the compartments. There I have the scissors, more gauze, self adhesive bandage wraps. Extra of the above is in storage.
I have one of the those pre-packaged kits and am in the process of trying each item and replacing the inadequate ones with better ones. When I’m in town, I look in the first aid section of the store/s and often find some good deals on better quality individual items. One weakness of my kit thus far is that I haven’t invested in the higher quality scissors that you show on the left hand side. Likely a sign from the universe! I’m on it.
Regarding medicines, when the pandemic hit, I made sure I took myself off the only prescription medication I was on and replaced it with an herbal remedy. I’m doing GREAT with it! Gathered the same plants this summer and tinctured it so I would have more than enough to last until the plant appears again in early summer next year. The feeling of satisfaction that comes along with this kind of self-sufficiency is substantial. If SHTF and I can’t access alcohol to tincture, I know how to identify this widely growing plant, St. John’s Wort, and could dry it instead.
Thank you, Selco, for sharing your continuing to share your substantial professional and personal experience with all of us. I do take it to heart and do my best to learn from the knowledge you share with us.
EMT-B and then I got my Wilderness EMT certification from NOLS. That was really eye opening and I think good insight into what medical practice would be like in a SHTF or post SHTF setting. What you have on hand is what you have on hand. No hospital, no x-rays, CAT or MRI scans.
The Wilderness course really teaches you to use what the patient has in their pack to use, and then what you have in your pack/med kit.
Of course it is just easy to say, “well, dont get into a situation that requires medical attention.” But accidents happen all the time. No one plans on cutting themselves while do prep work for dinner, but that does happen. Same thing with slips, trips and falls. No one goes out and plans to be a heat related case or cold weather injury.
One of Daisy’s previous articles on the situation in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria hit. News reports of people getting sick drinking from rivers because some yahoo up stream went poop in the same river. Lack of potable water may contribute to more people dying post SHTF than marauding MZBs.
I agree Selco, with everything you wrote. I spent nearly 40 years as first a Paramedic then a Trauma/Cardiac/Neuro RN (with an alphabet of cert initials). So yes,I’ve skills and knowledge beyond the average, but I’ve never been in a Combat/SHTF situation other than the Mass Casualty events we trained for. The 8 years I spent as a Paramedic were more beneficial as Learned how to treat major trauma in the field.
Most First Aid Kits available for purchase are truly worthless for anything beyond very minor trauma. The quantity and quality of supplies will be insufficient. Too small and not enough, as well as being high grade enough to last.
Developing a Medical Kit will depend upon one’s skills and knowledge. Knowledge can be gained by study, but skills take practice and practical application (experience). Those are more difficult, but not impossible to gain. Classes teaching practical Emergency Medical Care are out there, one may have to travel to participate, and fees vary greatly.
Triage, is the one aspect that will be difficult for most to learn, and an even harder decision to accept. You’re not going to be able to save everyone, especially when advanced surgical/Medical intervention is no longer available (for whatever reason). Traditional First Aid places great emphasis on CPR, but the reality is that depending upon what caused Cardio/Respiratory Failure, will dictate whether that intervention is applicable, and in Primitive Medical Care, it may be a waste of limited resources and time. What use is there to restart the heart, when the injury that caused arrest isn’t treatable under primitive conditions (either a wound or active disease process).
A very good essay Selco, and one Daisy and contributors add lot of information too.
As a group, it would behoove us to discuss this subject often.
Thank you for handing out your knowledge and experiences.
As a former Medic ( Vietnam) and R.N, then a Pastor/Hospital Chaplin I can say that this is Selco at his best. Well done!
Yeah that medical tape and one pack of 2” gauze squares in those med kits was replaced after my first use at a traffic accident. That stuffs laughable on quantity.
The magic tourniquet classes that every guru teaches but not one goes into what must come afterwards and how you probably only prolonged the pain in true SHTF due to lack of surgical skills regardless of how much you’ve got stocked.
As the panic set in round here on covid the gauze was non existent and quick BTW.
I’ve only used a tourniquet once. It was a shop accident with a crush injury. I was the first responder and my kit with the “real” tourniquet, of course, was in my office. Because the way the accident was supposed to happen was that I would be in my office and they’d call me out to the shop. I’d grab my kit and hustle out there and dispense care.
Of course, stuff doesn’t go like it’s supposed to go. I ended up grabbing a shop rag and a wrench and MacGuyvering one so we could get the car off the guy’s hand without him potentially bleeding out, because I didn’t know if it was an amputation or what. The biggest lesson I learned from that is unless your kit is basically ON your person, you don’t have time to get it when a traumatic injury occurs. The second biggest lesson was that if you understand how the good stuff works, you can improvise a lot better with what you have available.
They were lucky you were there.
I carry a Dark Angel pocket mini kit. The SWATT isn’t my first choice but it’s easy to carry and might even allow me to get to a CATT.
There’s a lot to do afterwards to keep them living.
Selco is spot on, as he often is. I have relatives in the medical profession and I’ve learned a few things from them. One thing they told me is that washing with soap and water, and sunlight is the best treatment for minor wounds. Wash it, stop the bleeding with a clean tissue, and don’t bother with band-aids or bandages.
Also, I think it’s worth researching for herbal treatments for any medical conditions that you or members of your family have. Prescription medications almost always work better (though you may be surprised), but if SHTF you may lose access to them, and it’s best to know ahead of time what herbal remedies work and how effectively. And ideally, try to find a source of those herbal remedies that you can collect yourself from a local spot. You may be surprised how many weeds have medicinal properties. Also, in the process of learning about local medicinal herbs and finding them, you may learn other useful things, such as where edible berries and mushrooms may be found, where you can collect the best kindling, and great hiding spots in case you need them. And you’ll connect with wild nature (as wild as you can find near your area, it will depend where you are), which is always great for learning lessons about survival.
Thanks for this info. Our family has found homeopathy has a been a great fit to learn to utilize plus we stock up on remedies. Homeopathy remedies have a expiration date of around 5 years put on by the FDA but have been shown to work 100 years old. They are small and easy to keep. Perfect for an emergency situation. I personally keep around 50 in my purse at all times. Also in my purse I have directions for my kids on what remedy to use for what issue and when to seek medical attention. All four of us, to include my husband and kids, attended a hands on first aid class and what homeopathy to use for different emergency situations. We had a chance to practicing on each other, what homeopathy to buy, and how to make tinctures. My son and I have also gone through a couple other homeopathy classes to learn the processes and procedures plus do watch/listen to additional training on a regular basis. My daughter has done some children’s homeopathy curriculum but isn’t ready for the more advanced quite yet. I do however spend time training both my kids and made a notebook for them on what to use when. I started with how to handle covid and just included a lot of info from everything to headaches and burns to accidents and flu. My kids now use homeopathy quite often to help issues. On our evacuation list, I have to take all my homeopathy kits and what books to pack with a little duffel bag that fits what we need just in case. I also take that duffel bag whenever we are traveling or camping when going by vehicle. I found empowering and training my whole family has helped reduce fear during this whole pandemic and made us feel more prepared in general. One other side effect is we have reduced our need to depend on allopathic medicine (medical bills) and have even reduced our vet bills by learning to treat our dogs and chickens.
Homeopathy ROCKS!!! It gives allopathic medicine a run for its money, and it can effectively treat severe trauma as well as acute and chronic conditions. I’m guessing you are a student of Joette Calabrese or Paola Brown? Very cool!
Joette offers a survivalist homeopathy course on her blog. Invaluable information and teaching.
“On our evacuation list, I have to take all my homeopathy kits and what books to pack”
Please tell us the books and the authors of each that you pack. Also, what books, websites or classes where you learned to make these homeopathy kits.
As a retired ER nurse, my med kit is a little more advanced because of the skills I learned over the years. I am delving into herbal medicine now, to reduce dependency on allopathy. Once I am comfortable with that, I think I may look into homeopathy.
I have said this in previous articles.
Besides for what is posted here above.
If you NEED pills to survive. You better start figuring out a way to stash some, a years worth or so,and cycling thru them to keep them fresh.
When it hits and deliveries are delayed. Hurricane, social unrest etc.
Can you last 2 weeks without your coumadin?, thyroid meds, Heart meds? etc?
Yah, YOU better get a standby stash.
A A Ron
No cute unless first aid kit here. I have over the counter general items, extras of my perscriptions and PRNs. Stethoscope, pulse ox meter, bloodpressure cuff, suture kits, scaple with 100 extra blades, many kinds of bandages blood stop pads, first aid and home Dr books, kit like I used for daughters home birth. For years I kept up first aid certifications. I set my broken arm with help to pull it straight. I delivered my daughter at home breach. I stitched up a cut that just needed a few stitches. And I’ve doctored my critters. I have some essental oils, iodine, and hard candies in the backpack. A second pack for a vehicle bug out has extra slings and tourniquet, wrist, ankle, knee, back, and finger braces. And extra med books. I still keep up at minimum heartsavers first aid certification. I have resusitated my husband when his pacemaker lost a lead. When checked it was off 2 full minutes. I have several kinds of bandaging materials, tapes, wraps, and bandage scissors.
Things like vicks and petroleum jelly are helpful. There are even hard candies in the bags. The idea being, calm or comfort a child, quick bloodsugar pick up, and relaxing for and adult, too. A little pick-me-up if its long in-between meals on a harried and hurried day.
The first thing in my kitd are books. I’ve been collecting medical books to cover as many areas possible. Anatomy, surgery, nursing, drugs, contraindications, herbal, homeopathic, alternative, diagnosis, first aid, combat medicine and trauma, wilderness medicine, etc.
I have a decent main kit of supplies with gauze, sponges, 4x4s, bandaids, specialty bandages, ace wrap, slings, scalpels and handles, sutures, hemostats and probs, stethescopes, blood pressure cuffs, O2 sensors, braces and imobilizers, etc.
I have a couple of first aid kits, one I bought and supplemented the other I built from scratch. I have three blow out kits with tourniquets (2 types) and hemostatic gauze (2 types) in each. Apparently Cellx works better in extreme cold, and since we get there where I am have both Celox and Quick Clot.
My theory is that once the SHTF I may be more likely to find someone with the skills to use the advanced gear I have than I am to find the gear and supplies.
Our group has an RN and several people with various levels of first aid and medical training.
The books provide a reference for those who already have the skills but need to brush up, or in an extreme case give someone the choice of 100% death if nothing is done or at least some chance if someone does something with the books as reference. The last option is something I hope we never have to put on the table, but I’ve thought about it – like Selco said, you may be the “doctor”.
I’ve been stocking up on over the counter meds as well. Cotton “rags” are put in a box to be used as needed once boiled and sterilized.
I was a Auto mechanic, so sharp metal ,and compression damage and stopping blood
Things in you eye, pulled Muscles , literally deep puncture wounds ,deep scalp wounds
Dental floss an needles ,used small fish hooks to sew wounds you can buy the right needles
Lots of clean bandages
Sugar poured into deep wounds stops blood loss
And real good Magnifying glass
Neosporin works on all wounds ,and speed up the body’s own repair of deep wounds
I was deep in the woods and one of campers had a deep wound to his hand with a AXE
Cleaned it with water we boiled an life saver 400OUF filled it with lots of sugar he finished the trip he later called me to say , kept his wound care as simple as possible and Clean
Hope some of these wound care advice helps all are time tested
Last but not Least I truly Recommend LIFE SAVER water Purification systems
Back packing 4000uf can spray a steady stream to flush wounds ,used it to clean eyes of debris for bike an motorcycle crash’s where EYES were full of SAND an dirt
Flushed many wounds it works ,,to see how well they filter fill a small pot boil all the water OUT from what ever your source ,then fill a different pot with the water from any life saver system Boil all the water out you can see a cleaner pot
You will see a difference from the two boiled out pots
I also have the five gallon jerry can recommend BOTH
Imodium and soap would be my number one items. You can get them at the dollar store. Most people in conflict zones and natural disasters die from diarrhea, not gunshot wounds. Boring but crucial.