Disaster Response Medical Training

While it certainly has its place, conventional urban first aid or pre-hospital care training does not prepare responders to deal with the following three realities of disaster and wilderness rescue situations:  

  1. Prolonged patient care
  2. Limited and improvised resources
  3. Providing care in hostile or austere environments. 

Being able to execute a solid risk benefit analysis including how to treat (or not treat) injuries or deciding to move or not move patients can be a complex task best suited to those with advanced training. While ideal, this is not often realistic in a disaster response setting. Those with only basic life support training are often required to do their best.

Realistic Care In Challenging Situations

It is beneficial to understand what the “ideal” treatments may be, but we must be realistic when considering our capabilities and resources. 

Ideal treatments may not be available or even possible in remote settings.  Responders may need to compromise and come up with a different plan given their patient’s condition, location and resources. 

Furthermore, conventional urban response training places an emphasis on what is wrong with the patient at the time of the assessment.  While this is still a key step of care in a disaster setting, determining what might be wrong a few hours from now may be just as important and, for some people, perhaps more important.

Medical care in disaster response asks;

what might be wrong a few hours from now?

This information will help responders perform a more accurate risk benefit analysis to determine evacuation and transport decisions. In some cases, responders may be able to “pre-treat” to prevent problems from developing or minimize the consequences. 

Disaster response medical training

Urban First Aid and Disaster Response Medical Training Differences

Wilderness or disaster medical training will include a number of expanded assessment and treatment modalities for responders, such as:

  • Management of high risk wounds and infection
  • Removal of impaled objects
  • Management of unstable musculoskeletal injuries including:
    • Swelling and pain management
    • When the use of traction to restore long bone injuries into regular anatomical position is warranted 
    • Assessment and treatment of simple dislocations
    • Improvised splinting techniques
    • Pelvis and femur injuries 
  • Assessment and management of spine injuries including a spine clearing assessment protocol
  • When to cease CPR or resuscitative efforts
  • Assessment and treatment of respiratory failure (as opposed to arrest only). This may include treatments for specific respiratory problems such as severe asthma. 
  • Patient packaging techniques that will protect patients from the environment 
  • Improvised patient carries 

Is Disaster Response Medical Training Right For Your Team?

If you or your team may be required to respond to incidents where you will be faced with the potential for prolonged patient care, limited equipment or resources, or austere environments, it is time to evaluate the utility of disaster response medical training for your team.

Consider getting some wilderness-specific first aid training to supplement your department’s current abilities. Medical training designed for prolonged patient care, limited equipment, and austere environments will ensure you are prepared if a disaster strikes you community.