Written by Greg Ellifritz
It could evolve as systems are stressed after a natural disaster. It could be caused by a terrorist attack. It could even be the result of a societal or economic collapse. Have you ever thought about what might happen if our current health care system (EMS, Doctors, Hospitals, Pharmacies) ceased to function normally?
What would you do if you couldn’t go to your doctor, all of the hospitals were shut down, all of the pharmacies closed, and no one answered the phone when you called 911? You would be on your own. You would have to take care of yourself and your family members with the knowledge and supplies you currently have. Could you do it?
Many people have been forced to care for themselves due to partial or full system collapses in recent history. Think about these events:
– Hurricane Katrina
– The 2010 Haitian Earthquake
– The 2006 Tsunami in Thailand
– The Fukishima Nuclear Disaster in Japan
Those were just the big ones. There have been countless other natural disasters on a slightly smaller scale. Besides the natural events, think about what happened in New York City when the Twin Towers were brought down. Think about the Economic Collapse that affected Argentina for several years. Think about the total societal collapse in the Balkans in the early 1990s.
In each of these events, medical care was limited or non-existent. All of the residents affected had to take care of themselves. I ask again: could you do it?
In order to be successful, you have to have knowledge. With the right medical knowledge, you can acquire, create, or improvise many of the supplies you may need. Fortunately in this digital age, there is a lot of knowledge freely available on the internet. The difficulty lies in sorting through all the crap and trying to discern good information from bad.
Well, I’ve done the work for you. Below are links to the best available free videos and publications on the internet. These resources are designed primarily for the person who is NOT a medical professional. Most speak in relatively clear language without too much technical jargon. With a little work, anyone reading these books should be able to understand the concepts. Almost all of these references address the issue of austere medical care…what to do when you have relatively untrained practitioners, limited equipment, and no one coming to help. These are the facts and skills you will need to learn if you want to take care of yourself in a system-collapse medical emergency.
The most widely-used health care manual for health workers, educators, and others involved in primary health care delivery and health promotion programs around the world. While you are visiting this site, make sure you also download “Where There is No Dentist”, “Where Women Have No Doctor” and “A Book For Midwives”. All are excellent resources as well. Print versions are also available HERE as well.
These are the battlefield medical protocols utilized by all branches of the US Military. The absolute best practices for handling traumatic injuries without professional medical intervention. You should also check out TCCC for All Combatants
The “advanced” version of the basic TCCC protocols above. This is a self guided home study course that is academically equivalent to the class that many soldiers going into combat receive.
Produced by one of the country’s largest suture manufacturers, this book is literally the bible of how to suture wounds. The book covers the differences between suture sizes and needles as well as all the different suturing techniques. It has excellent photos and shows many different types of wounds and how to sew them up.
U.S. Military Field Manual (FM-21-11) covering basic first aid for all types of injuries.
This book is a little more complex than the ones above, but it is still a very valuable reference. There are more current print versions available HERE, but they don’t vary greatly from the free version found at the link.
A good first aid and austere medical handbook that makes excellent differentiation between what works in “civilization” and what works in remote conditions without extensive amounts of equipment and support.
This is one of the best wilderness and primitive medical books available anywhere!
Although primarily concerned with emergencies at sea, this book is an excellent medical guide for a variety of conditions written so that the lay reader can diagnose, understand, and treat most common medical conditions in the absence of more definitive care.
For those of you who prefer to learn skills by watching video rather than reading, this is your site! It is a treasure trove of archived military medical videos on almost every topic available.
An archive of more than 10 years’ worth of journals for continuing education of military medics. Check out each year’s “Training Supplement” for the latest guidance about how to treat virtually any common medical conditions in the field with minimal equipment. If I had only one resource to download, this “Training Supplement” would be it.
This one is designed to be a surgical manual for doctors who aren’t well trained in surgery. It is simple enough that an educated lay person can understand most of the concepts with a little effort. While it contains great information, no photos are included in this copy.
The chapters on suturing, local anesthesia, and treatment of gunshot wounds are exceptionally valuable.
Before you dig in and get started, I have a couple of caveats….
Reading these books and stockpiling some supplies is not the same as attending medical school! If the healthcare system is functioning properly, use it! Save the knowledge in these books for when you really need it.
Also, there is no substitute for experience. If you have a greater interest in these subjects, classes are available. You will learn much more in a hands-on classroom environment than you will by just reading alone. Medical classes for non-medical personnel are sprouting up nationwide. You can find classes in every subject from Tactical Medicine to Third-World Medicine to Wilderness/Backcountry Medical skills. I’ve taken many of these kinds of classes and even teach some. They are all valuable.
One more tip….
If you anticipate needing these kinds of skills, think about the environment in which you will be practicing. Don’t just save these to your computer. If there are power outages or if there is an EMP event, your computer won’t likely work. Print them out or order the books in hard copy form. There’s nothing like having a real book when the lights go out!
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