Written by Greg Ellifritz
It could evolve as medical 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
– The current economic collapse in Venezuela
Those are 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 all that 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.” You should also download the new advance chapters of the next edition of “Where there is no Doctor.”
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.
You may also be interested in this 54-page summary of all the latest TCCC guidelines.
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.
The TCCC course above focuses on the types of wounds we see in a battlefield environment. The same TCCC fundamentals when altered to fit a civilian model is called TECC. Here is a free online course to get you up to speed on how your battlefield medical skills can be used to save lives
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.
For more suturing information, read Basic Knots & Sutures.
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, if you want a more up-to-date version compared to the one found at the link above.
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. If you could only download one reference on this list, this would be my choice.
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.
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.
The chapters of wound management and burn care are especially useful. It also contains one of the few complete references for dealing with eye injuries. If you really geek out on medical topics, read The Death of the Golden Hour from the same organization.
Black Rock City is the third largest city in Nevada. It solely exists during an approximate two-week time period of the Burning Man festival. Black Rock city is exceedingly remote and has a limited amount of medical staff on scene. The entire event focuses on “radical self reliance.” With that in mind, the organizers put together this 10-page first aid manual for the participants.
If you are looking for a very short read that covers most of the important basics, start with this one.
Before you dig into these incredible resources, Allow me to present 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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