An activist's guide to basic first aid

An activist's guide to basic first aid

A short guide to health care and first aid to be used on demonstrations or during direct action when injuries are possible, such as large pickets, blockades or demonstrations.

Preparation
What to wear
- Comfortable, protective shoes that you can run in.
- Clothing covering all your skin to protect from sun and pepper spray exposure.
- Shatter-resistant eye protection (ie. Sunglasses, swim goggles, or gas mask)
- Bandana to cover nose and mouth soaked in water or vinegar, it can aid breathing during chemical exposure.
- Weather-related gear (ie. Rain gear or sun hat)
- Heavy duty gloves if you plan to handle hot tear gas canisters.
- Fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours get contaminated by chemical weapons)
- A cap or a hat to protect from the sun and from chemical weapons.

What to bring
- Lots of water in a plastic bottle with squirt or spray top, to drink and to wash your skin and eyes in need be.
- Energy snacks
- A small medi-kit with bandages, plasters, tape etc.
- Identification and/or emergency contact information ONLY if you want to be cited out of jail in the event of an arrest.
- Just enough money for pay-phone, food, transportation.
- Watch, paper, pen for accurate documentation of events, police brutality, injuries.
- Water or alcohol based sunscreen.
- Inhaler, epipen, insulin or other meds if applicable.
- Several days of prescription medication and doctor's note in case of arrest.
- Menstrual pads, if needed. Avoid using tampons; if you're arrested you may not have a chance to change it (tampons left in for more than six hours increase your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome)

What not to do
- Don't put Vaseline, mineral oil, oil-based sunscreen or moisturisers on skin as they can trap chemicals.
- Don't wear contact lenses, which can trap irritating chemicals underneath.
- Don't wear things that can easily be grabbed (ie. Dangly earrings or other jewellery, ties, loose hair)
- Don't go to the demo alone, if you can help it. It is best to go with an affinity group or some friends who know you well.
- Don't forget to eat food and DRINK LOTS OF WATER.

Medication in jail
If you are risking arrest and take medication for any health condition that might pose serious problems were your medication to be interrupted ( such as: behavioural disorders, HIV, diabetes, hypertension) you should be aware that you may not have access to proper medication while you are in jail. A letter from a doctor will help. Three copies are needed, one for the legal team, one for the medical team, and one for you. It should include your name, diagnosis, that you must have access to medication at all times, a list of all meds required and a statement that you can must be allowed to keep meds on person to administer properly, and that no substitutions are acceptable.

Since your name will be on the document, you may want to hide it on your body as a sort of insurance policy - perhaps you won't need it and then could eat it and participate in jail solidarity tactics, but perhaps you'll be worn out already at the time of arrest and will want to cite out in order to take care of yourself. Better to cite than pass out.

Make sure that your affinity group and the legal team is aware of your needs so they can help care and advocate for you.

Blood, bruises and broken bones
The most common injuries on demonstrations are cuts or bruises sustained either by falling over whilst running or following a kicking from the cops. They are usually minor and treatable 'on site' though some will require hospital treatment.

Bruises require little treatment and it may be the case that you or an injured comrade need simply to rest for a while, whereas cuts should be treated with a plaster or bandage. If bleeding is heavy this can be stopped by firm direct pressure on the source for 5/10 minutes. If an artery has been cut and bleeding is severe, a tourniquet will be needed for short-term management but proper medical attention must be sought if blood loss continues.

Use a scarf, bandana, belt or torn shirt sleeve and tie around the arm or leg directly over the bleeding area and tighten until the bleeding slows. Wrap the injury to protect it and get the hero to a hospital - fast. I someone has glass or metal lodged in their body DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove it: this could cause further injury and increase the risk of infection.

If a limb appears to be broken or fractured, improvise a splint before moving the victim. Place a stiff backing behind the limb and wrap both with a bandage. Try to avoid moving the injured limb. This person needs to go to hospital for an x-ray and treatment.

Head injuries have to be approached with more caution than other body parts. Following a head injury it is essential that the person has an x-ray within 24 hours. Again, bleeding can be stopped by applying direct pressure. If the person is unconscious, do not attempt to move them: this could exacerbate the injuries already sustained: seek professional medical attention.

Internal injuries can occur from blows to the kidneys. These are usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, shock and persistent abdominal pain. Get prompt professional care.

And finally...
Remember the best protection against injury is our awareness. We must be alert and on guard for possible situations where injury may occur and keep an eye out for our comrades. We have to look after ourselves on actions and we hope that this information has been of help to fellow activists. We welcome feedback and further advice in order to provide ourselves with the best protection whilst out on the front-line of the revolutionary struggle.

Taken from the UHC Collective website
Edited by libcom.org, last reviewed 2006

Comments

Iktomi
Jun 27 2016 16:06

Pretty similar information but the "Alternative to EMS" zine is a good, short read. I didn't find it anywhere else while searching this site.

http://www.rosehipmedics.org/zines/

As an aspiring EMT/Paramedic, I think it would make a good addition to this section.

jesuithitsquad
Jun 27 2016 18:42

Good to bump in lieu of Sacramento

jef costello
Jun 27 2016 21:06

A good article

Quote:
Bruises require little treatment and it may be the case that you or an injured comrade need simply to rest for a while, whereas cuts should be treated with a plaster or bandage. If bleeding is heavy this can be stopped by firm direct pressure on the source for 5/10 minutes.

If an artery has been cut and someone is bleeding to death then a tourniquet can be applied but proper medical attention must be sought immediately. Use a scarf, bandana, belt or torn shirt sleeve and tie around the arm or leg directly over the bleeding area and tighten until the bleeding slows. Wrap the injury to protect it and get the hero to a hospital - fast.

If someone has glass or metal lodged in their body DO NOT ATTEMPT to remove it: this could cause further injury and increase the risk of infection.Place dressings around the object(s) to immobilise it then bandage the dressings to keep them in place.

I think the paragraphs should be changed to make the use of the tourniquet clearer as it's a pretty dangerous technque that is only used in the worst circumstances. Although to be honest I think it should be removed as tourniquets are dangerous, the description here is too short and incorrect, I've added advice to clarify but I'm not touching the actual description without a bit of time to think and check some references but it is plain wrong (I think a professional should correct it, most first aid courses don't teach tourniquets for these reasons and also in situations where one is apprpriate are so rare and so quick that tourniquets are rarely useful. There was also a typo and I've suggested a little addition for foreign objects.

Black Badger
Jun 28 2016 00:48

Tourniquets went out of style in the 1970s, and have recently enjoyed something of a resurgence in emergency medicine. The move away from them had to do with an overzealous use in situations where they are unnecessary; tourniquets should only be used in the case of bleeding that is not controlled by direct pressure and elevation (the use of pressure points to augment bleeding control has now gone out of style). The problem with most applications of old-style tourniquets has to do with the fabric being too narrow and secured too tightly. The proper application of a tourniquet only requires the blood flow to stop until clotting and vasoconstriction take over, which is 10-15 minutes on average. In the county where I work, tourniquets were put back on our ambulances about seven years ago. I had to use one once, on a patient who'd put her arm through a broken window and the laceration on her forearm was too deep for direct pressure and elevation to control the bleeding. The equipment is called a Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT for short), and was developed in the US and UK military in Iraq (too many wounded were dying from hypovolemia, so a revamped and retooled tourniquet was developed). The advantages are that the fabric is wide and it has a velcro closure plus a twist-lock mechanism. And you can write the time you locked it on the surface, which is important for when the patient arrives in the emergency department; they can loosen it slowly or more quickly depending on how long it's been locked in place, allowing blood flow to the distal area of the affected limb in order to minimize tissue death due to lack of perfusion. But you really need a little practice -- even though it's designed for idiots (cops and soldiers), it's not really intuitive. In short, using a belt, scarf, or bandanna, is not really a good method. Unless you think the bleeding is definitely not going to be controlled by direct pressure and elevation, and you don't mind losing the limb...