You are here: Home > Complete Preparedness Library > First Aid And Medical Basics > Assessing Injuries During A Disaster

Assessing Injuries During A Disaster

Depending on the severity of a disaster, you could be confronted in a whole range of injuries among members of your family or the people in your neighborhood.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, terrorism, or hurricanes can cause sometimes serious damage to people and pets.  Disasters that strike quickly, like earthquakes, tsunamis, or tornadoes will generally move on quickly, too, leaving you with the opportunity to begin first aid immediately.  The first thing to do is to asses yourself, to see if you have been injured in any way, and if you are basically unharmed, you can check on members of your family. 

Sort Out The Injuries

You might have already heard or read of triage, and it simply is a French word that means ‘sorting’.  It is often used during disasters to make sure that those who are most seriously harmed will get treatment first.  If you have become familiar with basic first aid procedures from the manual in your first aid kit, or have purchased other books dealing with this, you will have a background in how to assess and treat injuries.  Remember that during a disaster some people will be very afraid and will panic, and can make a good deal of noise even if they have received only a very minor injury.  You should look beyond the sound effects to make a reasoned judgement as to the extent of injuries.

The Big Three

During and after a disaster has occurred, you should watch out for the three largest killers: shock, airway obstruction, and bleeding.  If someone in your family is not breathing, perform the head tilt-chin lift immediately to attempt to open up the airways.  If this does not work, you will have to ‘breathe’ for the person and perform CPR until emergency medical personnel arrive.

Shock is a condition whereby the body begins to shut down.  It is often caused by excessive bleeding, but a severe blow to the head or any part of the body can also cause it.  If bleeding is the cause, do everything possible to stop the flow of blood.   Regardless of the cause, however, the victim should be placed on their back with the legs elevated about 10 inches above the head.  Loosen clothing so there will be no interference with circulation and cover the person with a blanket.  Hospital care will be needed to deal completely with the condition.

When presented with bleeding, you will find that there are basically 3 kinds: capillary bleeding is caused by damage to the capillaries and is not serious; venous bleeding can be heavy, but is not usually life threatening, however it should be tended to as soon as possible; arterial bleeding is the most serious and can result in exsanguination if untreated.  When treating arterial bleeding, elevate the affected limb above the level of the head and apply pressure to the wound.  If Celox or another clotting agent is available, use it immediately.  If you are unable to slow the bleeding, apply a tourniquet.  This should only be done if the victim would die otherwise as it can result in the loss of the limb from gangrene.

Broken Bones

You can use almost any material at hand to make a splint for a broken limb or digit.  Magazines and cardboard can be used, and strips of cloth tied around to hold the splint in place.  Do not attempt to set the broken bone yourself.  If the bone has broken through the skin, do not try to push it back in, simply cover it with a gauze pad, tape the pad in place, and splint as you would for any other fracture. For all of these and more, your safest bet in protecting you and your family is to supply yourself with a well built first aid kit.