The importance of an on-going, always under review survival plan, can’t be over-stressed. Every plan needs constant, consistent and through review. While plans may change at a moment’s notice, some things, the things we can control, we should strive to control.
Medical supplies expire. Any good medical kit, IFAK (Individual first-aid kit) or MFAK (Multiple-injury first-aid kit) will have a variety of components with expiration dates that always vary across the kit. So, you must check each component and make a schedule to be followed to keep the kit ready. This is relatively easy as not only are all the components available individually, there are also refill kits available. Additionally, unless an item is compromised physically – damaged, seal broken on sterile supplies – it should be placed in a secondary/fallback kit as the ‘expiration date” is not always absolute, but a result of testing by the manufacturer. Whether these were set under more adverse conditions generally than your supplies may endure, or the result of legal review, they are estimates and we recommend following them. Of course, if you leave the bag in a vehicle in Arizona for the summer all bets are off! The point here is no EMT is ever going to complain that they have too many chest seals, too much gauze, or too many hemostatic agents unless they have to carry them all themselves!
A physical review every three month is recommended since this involves rechecking expiration dates as well as the integrity of the packaging. Do this and you will not only be up-to-date and ready but you will know where every component is should an emergency present itself.
One more VERY important thing to do on medical kits – get trained on the use of the components! These classes, usually a day in duration, available everywhere, are just as valuable as the components, because improper use can do more harm than good. As you know everyone knows how to use a band aide and has seen a tourniquet used incorrectly on TV or in the movies. You need to be able to recognize this. Do you know the difference in application between a Sof-T, a SWAT-T, a CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet), or a TK-4L? How about a combat dressing like an OLAES Modular Bandage or Israeli bandage? Do you understand why chest seals ALWAYS come two (2) to a pack and that you better be sure if you don’t use them both (one for the entrance wound and one for the exit wound)? In the real world, this is what you need to know in order to “do no harm” while providing first aid. You don’t need to know each one, though that would not be useless information, but you do need to know the one or ones you chose to carry. The adage of “what you don’t know can kill you” or yours applies here.
Prescriptions, if you or a family member are on a prescription that requires a dosage regimen, daily, weekly, when a condition arises, this is something you must prepare for as most insurance/prescription plans limit your access to a 30-day supply. You need to know what your plan allows, if your doctor will work with your insurer to get authorization for higher quantities, and the proper storage and expiration of these medication. If you are limited by these controls talk to your doctor about alternatives to the prescribed medications such as supplements, or other homeopathic alternatives. For over the counter medications – allergies, headaches, etc. you should just keep track of your consumption over a period of time (a year would be good) and break that down (more allergy meds during spring, more cold meds during winter, etc.) and stockpile accordingly. Remember to factor in your possible changed environment as you may not be spending nights in your bed, air-conditioner or heater on, protected by a structure and remember these medicines have expiration dates as well and should be reviewed on your schedule.
This is indeed the “devil is in the details” work BUT what could be more important? Prepared is always a good thing and the status and use of medical supplies is something the entire family should be a part of because, as the head of household, you may be the one that needs to be administered to because of events. Leaving as little to chance as you possibly can is just smart planning. Think of it as “re-purposing” those brain cells currently being used to remember when you last updated your Facebook profile.