Prepare before the emergency

Jun 5, 2013 by Keith Murray

In October, Superstorm Sandy claimed the lives of about 150 people. Hurricane season officially started June 1 and ends Nov. 30. My question for you is, are you prepared? Is your family prepared? Do you have a plan?

Prepare as if the storm, earthquake, tsunami, heart attack, fall, cut, allergic reaction or any other medical emergency is coming today. Make plans now to handle any medical emergency you may encounter.

Medical emergencies happen every day. Some we can prepare for; others are more difficult to predict but we can still make a plan. I can say with relative certainty that this month, someone on a yacht will get cut, someone will fall, someone will get sick, someone will have chest pains, someone will have difficulty breathing, and unfortunately someone will die.

For many of these emergencies, we can prepare ourselves with a good quality medical kit, a new automated external defibrillator (AED) with the new AHA guidelines, and quality onboard CPR, AED and first aid training for all of the ship’s crew.

Medical emergencies can often be tough to predict, but planning and preparation are important. Here’s why:

The tsunami in South Asia killed 226,408 people in December of 2004.

The earthquake in Haiti killed 222,570 in January of 2010.

The Cyclone in Nargis (formerly Burma) killed 138,336 in May of 2008.

The heatwave that hit Europe in the summer of 2003 killed 72,210.

The earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March of 2011 killed more than 20,000.

A bombing in Boston killed three but injured more than 260 in April.

This list does not include manmade disasters such as war or acts of terrorism. Every day we hear of acts of terror all over the world, in Mexico, in the Middle east, and even in the United States. On Sept. 11, 2001, almost 3,000 people died in attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania.

Disasters can easily overwhelm local emergency medical services. Under normal conditions, on dry land, we can pick up the phone and dial 911 and within 8 to 12 minutes, help arrives.  But at sea or during a major disaster, help is not a phone call away. In these cases, you are the one providing emergency medical care. So again I ask, are you prepared?

Take a minute to think about how prepared you are for a disaster such as those listed above. On land or at sea, at home or at work, how prepared are you? Do you have enough food and water to get through it? Are your emergency medical first aid skills up to date? If you were the victim, who around you has the proper training and skills to treat you? If you fell, would they know how to properly move you? If you were impaled with something, would they leave the item in or pull it out? If you were having a seizure, would they put a spoon in your mouth or leave you alone? If you don’t feel comfortable either in your skills or in the skills of those around you, now is the time to learn.

Once the basics are covered — you have food, water and up-to-date skills — what’s next? Do you have the right equipment and supplies to treat medical emergencies? Do you have the right tools to protect yourself? You need PPE, personal protective equipment, such as gloves, glasses and a CPR barrier mask to protect yourself from bloodborne pathogens.

Go through your emergency medical first aid kit. Do you know what each item does? Is everything up to date?

For those yachties who don’t live aboard, take a minute to think about your home and family. Do you have a good first aid kit in your house? In your car? Is everyone at home trained in first aid?

For those of us in hurricane areas, start your preparations by visiting my Web site for a list of things you can do to prepare. Other areas are probably at risk for floods, tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters, not to mention manmade disasters. Take a minute to think about your preparations. And make a plan.Plan today.  Remember, failing to plan is a plan for failure.

Keith Murray, a former firefighter EMT, owns The CPR School, a first-aid training company. He provides onboard training for yacht captains and crew and sells and services AEDs. Contact him at 877-6-AED-CPR, 877-623-3277 or Comments on this column are welcome at