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Pack A Kit And Save A Life

February 18, 2013 by  

Pack A Kit And Save A Life

Recent events in the news have highlighted the volatility of the world we live in today. Violence is a common reaction to many scenarios. As a result of violent attacks, there are often traumatic injuries that occur to the parties involved that require immediate medical assistance. This is where the blow out kit (BOK) comes into play. Often weighing less than a pound and being capable of easily fitting into a cargo pocket, purse or backpack, the BOK is a must-have item for anyone who lives outside the safety of a bubble in the world today.

What Is A Blow Out Kit?

The BOK was originally developed by the military to assist in treating significant trauma as close to the time and point of injury as possible. It was discovered that severe, life-threating injuries that led to many deaths in the ranks of the military on the battlefield could be treated effectively with a few key medical supplies. This development led to the mitigation of more than 90 percent of preventable deaths on the modern battlefield and established the necessity for a kit that could be carried by every soldier.

With the success of the BOK in the military, it was discovered that there was a need for such a tool in the civilian market as well and law enforcement agencies began adopting the practice. The presence of such kits with the Tucson Police Department on Jan. 8, 2011, is credited with saving some of the lives in the mass shooting that wounded then-Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. This success cemented the position of the BOK as a must-have item in the inventory of many first responders.

There are a number of commercially produced kits available that include endless options from the very basic all the way up to what seems like a shoulder-mounted trauma surgery suite. The key to a good BOK is including high-quality components. Most of the commercially available kits are extremely good, although not low in cost. A good kit can be put together with individually procured components, typically at a reduced cost.

Why Do I Need A BOK?

The modern prepper should consider including a BOK among his preparations. Not only is a BOK part of being prepared for any situation, it is also a tool that can address many of the potential risks faced by survival- and preparedness-minded individuals. As a collective, preppers tend to engage in activities that could potentially result in accidents that would produce traumatic injuries, like hunting, target shooting, construction projects, farming and working with heavy equipment. Having a BOK available could assist in reducing the threat to life of injuries sustained by the self-sufficient person.

What Goes In My BOK?

Tourniquet: The foundation of most BOKs is a high-quality tourniquet. In years past, medical guidance would suggest that use of a tourniquet would be a poor decision, except as a last resort to stop uncontrolled bleeding. Recent research and practices provide proof that proper placement of a tourniquet on an extremity to treat uncontrolled bleeding is effective in preventing death from extremity hemorrhage in many cases. The most popular tourniquets in use in emergency medicine today include the C-A-T (Combat Application Tourniquet) and the SOFT-T (Special Operations Forces Tactical Tourniquet).

Bandages: Good bandages are essential for hemorrhage control with a trauma casualty. A BOK should have at least two trauma-specific dressings in it, like the Emergency Trauma Dressing (ETD). The ETD is widely used by the military, emergency medical services and police departments across the country and has proven its effectiveness on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. While not only useful for stopping major bleeding, the ETD is also useful for the treatment of several other injuries.

Gloves: A few pairs of medical exam gloves should be in every BOK. Communicable diseases can be avoided in many cases by wearing gloves when providing first aid to someone. This is especially important when providing aid to someone that you are unfamiliar with.

Medical tape: The adhesive property of medical tape makes it ideal for better securing bandages, chest seals, splints and other medical interventions in austere conditions. With many sizes of tape available, including a roll of 3-inch medical tape in the BOK should address any situation since it can always be torn or cut down to a smaller size if needed.

Trauma shears: Effective treatment of traumatic injuries requires exposing the injured areas of the patient. The best tool to accomplish this task is a good set of trauma shears which are able to cut through clothing, shoes, belts and even metal coins. Because of this versatility, trauma shears can be useful for many tasks besides medicine. It is recommended that a dedicated pair be placed in the BOK, though.

Rolled gauze: This is another multi-purpose item that can be useful for controlling bleeding. Other uses for rolled gauze in an emergency include stabilizing impaled objects, dressing burns, padding splints and even making improvised restraints. Imagination is about the only limit to what these 4-yard long rolls of gauze can be used for.

Ace wrap: A useful item to apply pressure to wounds in hemorrhage control, Ace wraps can also be used to treat a variety of orthopedic injuries that occur in almost any situation. The 6-inch variety tends to be the most used, although there are smaller versions available.

Hemostatic agent: QuikClot and Celox are the leading brands of hemostatic agents available on the market today. Hemostatic agents are helpful in quickly initiating the clotting cascade that leads to coagulation and the more rapid stoppage of blood loss when compared to treatment using non-hemostatic dressings. While they are not cheap, there are hemostatic agents that are readily available on the commercial market without a prescription.

Upon completion of advanced medical training, there are additional items that can be added to a BOK that can significantly increase the chances of survival for persons with traumatic injuries. In many States, “Good Samaritan” laws will protect a passerby that offers medical assistance in an emergency. It is important to keep in mind, especially when it comes to advanced medical techniques that go outside the scope of first aid, that engaging in some of these treatments can be considered practicing medicine without a license. This can make your best intentions susceptible to civil or even criminal prosecution. Some of these pieces of medical gear include:

14 gauge-by-3.25-inch needle and catheter: Used for needle chest decompression, this needle and catheter combination can be used to treat and reduce the difficulty associated with a tension pneumothorax (the accumulation of air in the chest cavity usually caused from penetrating wounds that lacerate the lung). In combat casualties, tension pneumothorax accounts for about one-third of preventable deaths.

Nasopharyngeal airway (NPA): The No. 3 cause of preventable deaths on the battlefield, airway obstruction can typically be treated quickly and effectively using an NPA, an airway adjunct that is inserted through the nasal passageway to provide a secure airway for the patient. Trauma casualties can suffer from airway compromise as a result of the jaw relaxing and the tongue slipping into the back of the throat. This compromise of the airway can lead to death but can be mitigated by training and use of the NPA.

Chest seal: Penetrating trauma in the chest, back and abdomen can lead to breathing problems for a wounded person. One of the fastest and easiest ways to address these wounds is with a good chest seal. While there are a number of ways to treat such wounds with improvised materials, there is no replacement for a purpose built chest seal. With that being said, there have been a number of different products that have been developed, but the leading products available today are the Hyfin and HALO chest seals. They are the most effective and hold up to almost any set of conditions they can be employed in.

These items are commonplace in most military and law enforcement BOKs or individual first aid kits (IFAKs) because of the ability to save lives with this equipment while also being able to train most members of the organization on how to properly employ these supplies in the treatment of casualties.

A common misconception is that a BOK is limited in effectiveness if you do not have all of these items. That is completely false. What is ineffective is not having a kit at all. When someone has sustained a life-threatening injury, there is no replacement for rapid intervention. A kit that contains a good tourniquet and high quality bandages but nothing else can easily make the difference between life and death for an injured person.

–Thomas Miller

Thomas Miller

lives with his wife and three sons in the Northeastern quadrant of the United States. He has completed countless hours of advanced training in both clinical and trauma medicine and is a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician. Tom has also completed several courses in disaster and emergency planning/management as well as hazardous materials handler and transport certification. He graduated with honors from American Military University with an Associate of Arts in Real Estate Studies. Tom is a U.S. Army combat veteran who served with honor as a combat medic on his multiple overseas tours during the Global War on Terror. During his time in the Army, Tom became an expert in the use of several weapons (including long guns, sidearms and improvised weaponry) and obtained competence with many other weapon systems, including foreign firearms. The Army also afforded Tom the opportunity to become proficienct in the driving and operation of several different vehicles from Humvees to heavy trucks and tracked vehicles. If there happens to be any free time available, Tom can be found sharing his passion for fishing with his sons, working on a project in the wood shop, tending to the garden or trying to maintain some resemblance of physical fitness. Tom's other writings can be viewed on his blog, The Prepared Ninja, at If you are on Twitter, Tom can be followed on the handle @preparedninja.

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  • dan
    • Wellarmed

      Good advice Dan, but I would recomend that most people need to learn far more advanced skills and would recommend that they join their local Volunteer Fire Department and accept whatever training they are willing to provide.

      I chose not to become an EMT and my department is ok with that, although I do go to all of the med classes for my own benefit and to assist the EMTs/Paramedics in our Department. I do feel that the American People are running out of time to get their ducks in a row. This type of training will not be available when the SHTF. It will be trial by fire at that point.

      I also recommend this route so people can get used to learning how to deal with the mental toughening they will need to aquire, as death or treating someone near death takes an incredible mental toll on a first responder, and one must learn how to come to terms with it and move on to the next incident.

      I thought the article on the BOK was excellent, and I like that FF has a kit that is suitable for his and his wifes skill level. As far as the lawyers are concerned, I hope they find a suitably warm place to rest on their buckets of cash, and that they find it sooner rather than later. There will be no concerns for liability when this country falls apart, and everyone should be looking at what their role will be if we are to ever put it back together.

  • Tony Z

    Good review for former military as wellas update on available trauma produs. The article provides a good outline of what is needed in a basic first aid kit.

  • ibcamn

    Most people i know used to always carry a med kit with them!you would pack what you thought would be useful and the big thing used to be smelling salts!in my car i always had something in the trunk!
    the problem came when out of the blue,people started sueing you if you helped save their lives or the lives of loved ones!!almost every one i knew who carried a med kit stopped!!no one wanted to be sued!i saw at a Sambo’s once(restaurant chain)an old man fell on floor having a heart attack,so his daughter thought,but no one would help him.i went over and put his head on my coat,and felt a strong pulse,told them to call for ambulance,i did nothing further because this guys daughter screamed at me,”if you hurt him,i’ll sue!”…..i got up and went back and finished my meal!they took him away and i felt like sheet because i bailed!
    That’s why we need something like this again,but like was said,take courses so you not only know what to do but how much your allowed to do!!i say with a deep heart,but nowadays less may be more in some cases!be careful in what you do,people may be thankful at the moment,but then they will turn on you!i say pick your battles when it comes to this and using a BOK or whatever it may be you have packed for med aid!

    • FreedomFighter

      My wife is a nurse of 30 years and your advice is spot on…even with all the training and the creds, she would hesitate due to the possible legal ramifications ( though she would help anyways if she thought she could save someone ).

      That given, in a SHTF situation, any help is help, and may save a life.

      In a SHTF situation, anti-biotics will be in short supply, pain killer in short supply, consider getting some, and antiseptics…in the long term a good alcohol still for 190proof is a smart choice. Not only can you make the booze, you can distill water. Another great device to have is a Silver generator for making collodial silver — almost as good as anti-biotics and makes a great would antiseptic and water purifier.

      See vet for pet-meds for your pets anti-biotics come ina bucket if you want to keep your pets healthy - “same as human versions” — check carefully…

      Our BOK is the size of backback with 2 smaller bags for special stuff, — she is a nurse, we have O2 monitor, stethascope, BP unit, all run on batteries and other medical equptment — all professional grade. The car kit is much smaller and more specific.

      Laus Deo
      Semper FI

      • Lloyd

        Good points, both of you! And this article really is a good review for us all! Thanks, Mr. Miller!

      • JimH

        Hi FF, In a SHTF situation I doubt lawyers will be a factor.
        Who says “nothing” good can come from that.
        What’s the difference between a lawyer and a vampire?
        One is a soulless, bloodsucking monster that preys on the innocent.
        The other is a bat.

  • Lloyd

    you might want to throw about 3′ of good, easily-torn duct tape in there, too. It’s great for temporary use in sealing wounds/cuts and sealing sucking chest wounds.

  • David

    Good article and good info. On helping a stranger you run the risk of being sued. It is the society we now live in. And if you have taken some kind of training you are deemed an expert so anything that goes south is on you. Their lawyer will say you should have known better after all you have been trained. My son is a firefighter and has seen people pulled from a fire unconscious (which saved their lives) only to be sued later because they got some other injury (like a leg dislocation, they were buried under some heavy item and it was on fire, so they lifted as much as they could and pulled them out from under and then got them to safety (by the way some of the firefighters got hurt doing that)). Now the courts heard the case and all the evidence and said the case had no merit, and that the person should be thanking the fire Dept. Instead of taking them to court.
    All that said the Dept picked up the lawyer fees, but time was lost and manpower was strained because of this. Had it been just a regular joe, the lawyer bill alone would make you think twice before getting involved.
    However warped our system is, remember that evil succeeding depends on good People doing nothing.

  • http://midcontent ridge runner

    The first thing to pack in your kit is your hid out gun and your magum that is close at hand. Then start packing bandages and tape. Or we can all wait for the government madate first aid station get set up.The BOK kits are carried in all peices of equipment we use. Good peice of equipment to hav.


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