Friday, October 12, 2012

Blowout Kits for NGOs

We are all products of our own experience. As a former Emergency Medical Technician and member of a federal Disaster Medical Assistance Team, I often find myself spending extra time and effort considering medical-related threats. Injury and illness are common on-the-job hazards for humanitarian workers and the more risks you can mitigate, the better.

An area I’ve always been interested in is treating trauma; when the body receives a serious injury from an accident or act of violence. One of the leading causes of death in conflict zones and developing world vehicle accidents is bleeding. If a major artery is compromised, a person can potentially die in a few short minutes if external bleeding is not promptly stopped.

While basic first aid classes teach bleeding control, unfortunately most do not discuss commercial supplies specifically designed to stop blood loss. One of the few positive byproducts of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been advances in military battlefield medicine; especially in regard to bleeding control. Revised protocols and new products have successfully reduced the number of fatalities from bleeding wounds.

Of particular interest to the humanitarian community are blowout kits; supplies purposely designed to treat bleeding, either for performing first aid on yourself or someone else. These kits are widely used by military forces and private security providers. Their effectiveness also makes them worthy of consideration by humanitarian organizations; either inside vehicles or carried by staff in conflict zones; the kits' small size and light weight mean they can readily fit in a pocket, purse, pack, or bag.
I’ve hesitated recommending commercial versions of blowout kits to NGOs in conflict zones because they look too military-like (the pouches come in camouflage or tactical colors). Additionally, the kits often contain other supplies that require advanced training (like inserting an airway adjunct or performing a needle chest decompression).

Recently, I was pleased to see that one of my favorite austere medical supply sources, Chinook Medical, is now offering a much more neutral looking, civilian-oriented blowout kit. It only contains bleeding control supplies, no airway adjunct and decompression needle are included, and is reasonably priced at $31.49 USD. You can check out the details here.
I really like the contents of these kits and am starting to recommend them to organizations for field use. (It's worth noting that the packages of the individual supplies have instructions, but there's no overall guidance on when to use what; for example under what circumstances should you use the QuikClot sponge instead the compressed gauze. I'd suggest some basic first aid training to go with the kits as well as attaching a simple reference card written by someone with an appropriate level of medical training on what to use for treating various types of bleeding.)
These types of kits should be widely adopted by the humanitarian community. They're cheap, easy to use, and could save a life.



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