Do 1 Thing: Emergency first aid

by Norm Duesterhoeft


Individual – First Aid

An emergency can happen at any time and any place. Many public places have a first aid kit, oxygen, or an AED (automated external defibrillator) to treat people. These items can only save lives if someone knows how to use them. Actions you take in the first few minutes after an injury or other medical incident may save someone’s life.

You should know what to do while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Call 911 instead of trying to take an injured or ill person to the hospital yourself. It seems like waiting for an ambulance will make it take longer to get help, but ambulance crews can start providing care as soon as they arrive. They can get the patient to hospital quickly, legally, and more safely.

Consider the following: Stay on the line with 911 and follow emergency instructions. Stay calm and try to keep the patient calm. Don’t move a patient who was injured in an automobile accident or fall, or who was found unconscious. If the patient is cold, cover them with a blanket. Don’t give an injured person anything to eat or drink (unless instructed by the 911 dispatcher). Have someone watch for the ambulance and show the crew how to get to the patient. (This is especially important in an apartment or office building, or if your address is hard to see from the street).

Make or buy first aid kits for your home and car. Ready-made first aid kits are available at most department stores or your local American Red Cross chapter. These kits come in a variety of sizes and prices. You can also make your own kit from supplies you probably already have around the house.

Some items that should be included in a basic first aid kit are: adhesive tape; gauze pads and roller gauze (assorted sizes); antiseptic Ointment; hand sanitizer (liquid or wipes); band-aids (assorted sizes); plastic bags; blanket; scissors and tweezers; cold pack; small flashlight and extra batteries; disposable gloves; triangular bandage

Helping others in a medical emergency isn’t as hard to learn as you might think. Knowing how to apply a bandage, identify the signs and symptoms of shock, perform CPR or use an automatic external defibrillator (AED) can save a life.

First responders may not be on the scene for five minutes or more. It is up to individuals like you to be ready to help someone who is injured. The person whose life you save may be someone that you love.

Many American Red Cross chapters now offer training in pet first aid. Training may also be available through your local humane society, kennel club, or pet store. Check with your veterinarian to see what special items you may need to include in a first aid kit for your pets. If you travel with your pet, or if they are service or hunting animals, you may want to make a travel-sized pet first aid kit as well.


Business – Recovery

Major disasters change communities forever. Shop-ping patterns, income levels, and demographics may be permanently affected. Skilled employees may leave the community and no longer be available. Business owners must be prepared to make difficult decisions about location, staff, operations, and whether to reopen at all. Laying the groundwork ahead of time can make it easier to make sound decisions after a disaster.

Make a checklist of considerations for getting back into business if your facility is damaged. When your facility is damaged you must choose between restoring that facility and moving into a different site. Develop a checklist now that will help you get back into your facility quickly, and that will help you recognize when trying to return to your old location is not feasible.


Consider the Condition of:

Your Building—Is damage cosmetic or structural? How long will it take for repairs to be made? Talk to your insurance agent as soon as possible and find out how long it may be before your claim is paid. Add that time to the amount of time it will be before repairs can be made. If you rent, get a timeline from the building’s owner.

Transportation Routes—Were transportation routes impacted? If so, when will they be restored?

Utilities—What utilities were damaged and when will they be restored?

Surrounding Structures—If buildings around yours are likely to remain vacant for a long time, will it negatively impact your business?

Neighborhood—If your business relies on customers from a specific area, how badly was the area affected?

Another factor when deciding whether to wait to get back into your building or relocating is the impact the disaster has had on demand for your product or service. If the event has caused an increased demand, you will want to get back into business as quickly as possible. Once that demand is met following the event, it may reduce demand for that product or service for a period of time afterward.

Make a plan for post-disaster staff support. The trauma of a disaster or emergency event can make it difficult for employees to return to work and can make them less productive when they do. Effects can be multiplied if both the employee’s home and workplace are affected, or if the event takes place while they are at work. Providing an emotional support system can help employees manage the effects of the disaster and can ultimately help your business return to productivity sooner. It can reduce sick days and worker’s compensation.

Traumatic stress can affect the ability to think clearly, relationships with others, and even physical health. A person suffering from traumatic stress often won’t recognize the symptoms in themselves. Mood swings, irritability, insomnia, headaches, inability to concentrate, loss of appetite, even eating and sleeping too much, can be signs of traumatic stress.

If you contract with an employee assistance program, discuss what kind of support they can offer to employees after a disaster. Otherwise, find out what other resources are available in your community. In many areas Disaster Mental Health or Critical Incident Stress Management Teams are available to work with employers to help manage the stress and trauma of an extreme event. Talk to them in advance to find out what kind of services they can offer.

Be visible to your employees. Make sure they understand their role in the recovery of the business. Set achievable goals and recognize when they are met. Clearly communicate any changes in management structure or procedures, including whether the changes are permanent or, if temporary, how long they are expected to be in place.

Make a checklist of considerations to help you make decisions about the future if your business is affected by disaster. Post-disaster decision making isn’t limited to whether to reopen or relocate to a new site. You may be faced with the decision of whether or not to reopen at all. The Natural Hazards Research Center describes disaster decisions as being made in an “emotional, reactionary, time-sensitive, expensive, and politically charged atmosphere...based upon incomplete information, disproportionate needs, and the worst working conditions imaginable.”

For a small business, “survival” must be defined as the financial survival of the business owner. Survival does not necessarily mean continuing in the same line of business, or staying in any business at all, staying at the same location, or serving the same customers

After a serious disaster, it usually takes the same level of commitment and energy to revitalize a business as it did to start it.

Think now about what you might do if your business was closed by disaster: Would you operate the same business, open a new business, enter a new occupation, or retire? Do you still have what it takes to do it again? Are you and your family in good health? Has the disaster caused you severe stress? Is stress affecting your decision-making?


The more vital assets you lose in a disaster, the harder it will be to get back up and running after a disaster.