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.
An activist's guide to basic first aid
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.
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