It doesn’t matter if you’re out hunting, on the range practicing, or driving down the highway, when chaos strikes, it strikes fast. One missed step along that ridge, a ricocheting bullet off a steel target, a distracted driver, a slip of a blade, and you can find yourself in a life and death situation. Beyond gun safety, first aid training is more useful than any other training you could attend, though most of us put it a ways down the list of our planned training.
For a solid base and a ground zero starting place the Red Cross CPR and Basic First Aid classes are available around the country and worth the time and money. With an aging population, the decline in fitness /health of the average population, and the sheer number of things that can stop a heart, electric shock, drowning, etc- it’s a needed first step.
The one I attended had a mixture of attendees from new parents wanting to learn how to handle choking incidents with their infants, to individuals needing training for job requirements, to professionals seeking knowledge just in case. The class covered basic assessment and response techniques with an emphasis on heart attack and choking and how to provide proper care until help arrives.
Like many of you, I’ve had previous training, and this expanded on that by covering the operation and use of portable defibrillator devices that are now common in most public locations. Restarting hearts is no longer just left to the doctors at the Emergency Room. The training devices in the class were top notch; they let you see the chest rise and lit up to recognize proper blood flow while you performed CPR providing instant feedback.
Completing the class leaves you with a lot more confidence that you know what to do and how to do it in these situations, rather than just the current vague thought that you think you know how to do CPR and could jump in if needed-what if a loved one’s life depended on it?
Serious Training – The next step
It’s really not that hard to imagine how you could find yourself in a life-threatening situation, all you have to do is drive to work, or work around the house with a few power tools or electricity – Accidents Happen.
Several things prompted me to finally take this next level of training which I have wanted to for years but had put off due to time and financial priorities. The first being recent events, I realize there is a better chance of being hit by lightning than being around an incident like the recent the Parkland FL High School shooting, but I want to know how to help if I am around.
Another catalyst was that recently I was the first person to reach a wrecked car after a fairly severe accident. The driver was unconscious, though breathing, and bleeding a little here and there, and I wasn’t sure if the car might catch fire as well. It all turned out ok but I felt out of my depth on the medical side.
So, I researched and found a well-respected company, Dark Angel Medical. They had a class that fit my schedule and was within driving distance in Atlanta. They teach classes for civilians and agencies around the country.
The Direct Action Response Training (DART) class turned out to be just what I wanted, and I learned the majority of the knowledge and skills I was looking to add to my toolbox. The class was a solid 16 hours of instruction and hands-on training that left me wanting to learn more.
The DART class focuses on trauma type injuries, triage, and keeping yourself or others alive and did not touch on CPR so I wasn’t relearning basics from the Red Cross classes. The ability to keep yourself and others alive makes you an asset, not a liability.
We had numerous opportunities to apply tourniquets, pressure dressings, splints, slings on our own limbs, as well as others. The life you save may be your own.
I won’t begin to try to put out all the information they covered in the class; it’s enough to say that you will know what is important, what you need to look for, what you need to do, and what the boundaries are for what you can really accomplish in the field.
The practical drills, information, and demonstrations were outstanding and really drove home the point of how fast actions need to be taken, especially severe bleeding, hemorrhages need attention first.
You’ve only got about 5 liters of blood circulating and with a severe femoral artery bleed the body can lose a liter a minute- easy math, hard reality. You are your own first line of defense and survival in bad situations.
The class made it crystal clear for me that just like having a pistol in your car may be too far away, the ability to have and apply a tourniquet if its located in the car may be too far away as well. Everyone’s range bag or pack should have a quality tourniquet in it, mine certainly will.
The military has learned these hard lessons and it’s no surprise that all my military friends have tourniquets on their kit and are trained in using them.
The practical demonstration of pouring tomato juice on the ground to illustrate what realistic amounts of simulated blood loss looked like on different surfaces was enlightening, it gets way serious before the large pools you see in the movies.
The videos and wound pictures in the class are graphic but they are there for good reasons and illustrate the points as nothing else would. No one knows exactly how they will react in these situations but the more you train and the more you see the better prepared you are mentally and emotionally.
The instructor covered in detail the various products and materials that could be used to mitigate the damages of traumatic injuries, including improvised materials. The scenarios and skills portions brought all the information together and applied a bit of stress in some timed portions.
The CAT and SOFTT-W tourniquets were the two primary units for me – each had advantages for different situations. The CAT seemed to be the best for applying to myself one handed and the SOFTT-W for putting on others when I had both hands available.
Pressure dressings were similar, some worked better for specific applications and not as well for others. The opportunity to work with a variety of brands and styles will allow saving some money when choosing equipment to stock range and vehicle kits.
The instructor also took the time to identify which tools were industry standards and how to recognize imitations and knockoffs that may not perform to the same standards. A quick check online and I recognized several of the imitations pictured for sale claiming to be the quality products-buyer beware.
Spending two days learning what actions were needed to address injuries, breaking down injuries to basic categories that have predictable required actions, and working with the materials to accomplish those actions removes much of the mystery and doubt.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a gunshot, an auto accident or deep circular saw cut, keeping the blood in and the person breathing is the immediate goal.
Knowing where to start and having a plan if you ever find yourself in or around these scenarios is crucial. Having the knowledge, a few supplies, and a plan allows you to systematically work through a victim’s injuries and address the most vital first., They may not be the one you see first but having the plan guides you back to what’s most important.
The class wisely stops its training at the boundaries of where you are covered by typical Good Samaritan laws. Actions you would take beyond these levels would mean additional certifications from state or other authorities.
All the knowledge gained in the class helps you determine what you want to have in your personal medkits. The one for the range will be smaller than the one for my car and more like the one I take hunting in the mountains.
Dark Angel Medical sells a variety of trauma kits for different applications — EDC, First Responders, and vehicle. They aren’t the cheapest on the market but they only use quality components. They also sell the components they use so you can build your own.
Get a trauma kit and some training, having the tools and ability to immediately address the major hemorrhages, airway, and breathing issues increase survival chances dramatically.
I can’t speak about all of Dark Angel’s instructors, but I have no reservations saying that Mike is one of the finest instructors I have ever had. He has a passion for the material and the student’s success, a vast depth of knowledge, and a fantastic sense of humor and presence.
Having put a hatchet all the way to the bone (my hand) while splitting kindling, I know how fast Murphy can change your day. It only hit a small artery, so it wasn’t life-threatening, but you really never know when you’ll need this training.
Put a medical / trauma class or two on your training schedule; knowledge is power, and this wisdom can save lives. Completing training classes such as these two will make anyone much more confident that you can react and be an asset rather than a liability in a critical situation when seconds matter.
Learn more about Dark Angel Medical