In the Wilderness or City – Be Prepared for Emergencies

By on February 1, 2016

An Unexpected Situation

Recently, my wife and I happened upon a serious auto accident while visiting family in Texas.  We were the first on the scene, and a woman was bleeding badly.  We were in a rental car and had no emergency kit.  Well, we thought, we have to help and hoped we would do the right things.

It was then that my Boy Scout training took over.  First, as a youth, and then as an adult leader, I had been trained and refreshed in first aid over the years.  I never really thought I would use it in a serious situation, but there we were.  My wife and I acted as a team, each doing what we were best at.  My wife comforted the woman, and together we worked to get her bleeding under control.  I did my best to assess the accident scene, call 911, calm the driver of the other car, and give instructions to bystanders.

In the end, with our hands still covered with blood, we left the accident scene and noticed we were shaking.  But we also knew that our knowledge of first aid and emergency preparedness had helped another person in her time of need.

Think Ahead. Be Prepared

I began thinking about how we might have done things better.  So I checked out a Boy Scout Emergency Preparedness merit badge book from the library and took a look at it.  Interestingly, the book begins by defining an emergency as something unforeseen or unexpected that requires immediate action, often including first aid.

  • A key takeaway is that you should consider the type of emergencies you are likely to encounter (wherever you are) and be prepared. Give forethought to the possibilities before they happen.

Emergency Situation Plan

Next I checked out the library’s copy of the Boy Scout First Aid merit badge book.  Once you come upon an emergency, hopefully one you had given some forethought to, the Boy Scouts suggest the following plan to handle the emergency situation.  The plan should be followed in order.

  1. Check The Scene – Accident scenes can be confusing. Make sure you stop and take a moment to look over the entire scene and collect your thoughts.  Focus particularly on who and where the injured are.  There may be more than one victim.
  2. Call for Help – Act quickly to get help. If you have phone coverage, call 911 or the operator.  In the wilderness, try to use a whistle or other method to attract help.  If necessary, send at least two people to go find help (not just one person).  Send a note with the messengers describing your location and situation.
  3. Approach the Scene Safely – Be aware of surrounding traffic, rushing water, or broken ice (this is all part of checking the scene out above). Do not become an accident victim yourself!
  4. Provide Urgent Treatment – Breathing and bleeding are your immediate concerns when treating the victim. One takeaway from our experience was that the victim was bleeding a lot from the head, making it difficult to tell if bleeding was occurring anywhere else on her body.  Know the basics of CPR and how to stop bleeding.
  5. Protect from Further Injury – Keep movement of the victim to an absolute minimum unless other circumstances, such as an unsafe situation, arise.
  6. Treat Every Victim for Shock – Shock is very likely to occur and it can be deadly. Calmly assure the victim that everything is being done and that help is on the way.  It turns out that my wife is an all-star at this and it made a huge difference! Try not to leave the victim alone.  Keep the victim warm.
  7. Plan a Course of Action – With the situation and the victim now somewhat stabilized, plan what you will do next. Don’t lose sight of your own needs (for instance, keep yourself warm and dry).  You don’t know how long it will take for help to arrive.  In our situation, we expected help to arrive in 3-4 minutes after calling 911.  In fact, it took almost 20 minutes.  Obviously, in a wilderness situation, it could be much longer.

Whether you are in the big city or in the wildernesses of Quetico and the Boundary Waters, everyone should be prepared for an emergency and know basic first aid skills. You will never know whether you will be the person helping or being helped!

Paddle On.  Be Free.