If you watched the news for even a few moments during the summer of 2017, you know about the succession of hurricanes and other disasters that rocked our country and its inhabitants. First aid was a common sight, suffice it to say, and we would guess that RVs and other mobile treatment centers played a significant role during rescue operations. Regardless, in light of any emergency circumstances, you may be called upon to provide medical attention for someone when traveling in your RV. While we would rather not think about such possibilities, it's important to have a plan and be prepared for anything. Without a doctor or EMT available, you might be someone's only hope. Let's take a look at how you can turn your RV into a medical station in the case of an emergency.
Stay calm and call 911. Yes, do this before anything else, unless you are facing a victim that will die in the next 60 seconds without your immediate assistance. Even then, have someone else call right away while you tend to the person. The good folks that will show up in emergency vehicles have years of training and all the right equipment to deal with the situation much better than you ever could. Call them first.
Apply first aid. You know the drill. Make sure the person can breathe, stop any bleeding, be careful of possible internal injuries. Get them stable. If it looks like they might have something internal going on, DO NOT move them! Your effort to help might make something you can't see become worse. Leave them where they are, and move your RV closer if need be. Most importantly, keep them calm. If they are aware at all of their injuries, some folks tend to panic, and that can lead to bad things. Don't let them look anywhere except your face, which will hopefully reflect some composure.
A big part of this is having a well-stocked medical kit with most or all of the following:
- Bandages, gauze, and tape
- Protective gloves
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Splint and tourniquet materials
- Lots of water
- At least one powerful light source
- Some type of knife or blade
- Tweezers or pliers
- A CPR mask
- Medicine and burn ointment
- A clotting sponge and cold pack
- Needle and thread for applying stitches (if you're feeling brave and have a steady hand)
Please note, this is far from a comprehensive list, and these items are geared more toward large scale treatment than minor first aid occurrences. How well and thoroughly you can provide assistance will largely come down to how many supplies you have when the time comes. Those little basic first aid kits you can buy at a grocery store are great for a minor cut or scratch, but that's about it. Go for a large camping or field trauma kit instead. If possible, think Epi-pen and defibrillator. No, seriously. Talk about a potential lifesaver–provided you know how to use them, of course!
One more tip: Keep all your medical items in a waterproof bag or kit that is easy to carry. A plastic toolbox or tackle box is perfect for this. Trust us, you'll appreciate that when you need to bring a bunch of stuff with you away from your RV. Keep a flashlight or light stick right at the top in case you need to get there in the dark.
Fold down the beds. Those nifty hide-a-bed sofas and dinettes aren't just a space-saving hat trick anymore. They have now become a place to have a person lie down and elevate their feet above their head if necessary. Make sure they have plenty of blankets, because if someone is going into shock, you'll need to keep their body temperature up, so get them covered quickly. Even a jacket or sweatshirt will help. Hand and body warm packs would be even better.
Rely on your maintenance. Sounds weird, right? This is where properly maintaining your RV will save the day. That generator, those batteries, the water lines, vent fans, and more all come into play to varying degrees when disaster strikes. Having everything in good working order ensures you can provide much better medical attention than if you've been ignoring recommended maintenance, and suddenly your onboard power or hot water heater dies when you need it most.
Finally, protect the people inside your RV who are under your care. Assuming the victim or victims are relatively stable, do your best to get them to a doctor or hospital. That might be impossible, but if your RV is in a disaster zone and becomes compromised, whether by a raging wildfire, rising flood waters, or anything, your priority then is moving it (and anyone you are caring for) to a safe place. If that isn't possible, it's time to abandon ship, and get everyone to safety elsewhere.
Either way, don't get tunnel vision while you are housing the injured or sick. Pay attention to your surroundings, and what might be headed your way. Another helpful item to keep on hand is a flare gun, especially if you are out in the middle of nowhere, to alert rescue parties to your location.
In the end, there really is no good replacement for medical training of some kind. You can have all the supplies and tools at your disposal, but if you're not sure how to use them or what to do next, it won't do you or the people who need help much good. Now go find a good first aid class nearby and sign up to save lives!
Have you ever had to turn your RV into a mobile medical station? Do you have any tips on how to do this successfully? If so, share them with us in the comments below and you might just help save a life!