First Response/Search & Rescue Gear/Equipment?

Drew.Gardonia

After my experience in Joplin, I realized I was a bit unprepared to assist in a first response, search and rescue type capacity.

Having only a pair of sturdy work boots in my trunk and a flashlight, I was limited in my abilities for fear of getting cut on nails (and having to get a tetanus shot as a result), or splintered wood which made sifting through the rubble in search of people difficult. Doesn't do a lot of good to go help, only to get injured and end up having to be rescued yourself.

So the next time I chase, I plan on having a tote in my trunk with some appropriate gear to be able to more readily respond to such a disaster and I'd like to know what items would make it more feasible to dig through the rubble.

So far here's my list.

Sturdy work boots (waterproof and steel toed if possible)
Thick heavy work gloves (to protect from rusty nails, broken glass, and splintered wood and twisted metal shrapnel)
good comfortable pair of work jeans/coveralls
heavy duty flashlight (extra batteries)
small backpack/fannypack with medical supplies (gauze, band-aids, medical tape, antibiotic ointment, disinfectant spray, small pair of scissors).
jacket/hoodie to deal with the rain/cold

I'd like to see what others have to add to this that maybe hasn't been thought about.
 
Apr 16, 2010
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Omaha, NE
I think Joplin was the extreme case that had to be handled in a more organized/professional way because of all of the layers of heavy debris. So to just go digging through the rubble as a one man operation would be pretty futile. But, if you came across someone who knew that someone was buried under stacks of house debris etc... you'd be ready.

This is an interesting video I found:
[video]http://www.5newsonline.com/news/kfsm-local-rescue-response-in-tornado-disaster-20110504,0,6347846.story[/video]
 
Oct 10, 2006
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Fort Worth, Texas
I would add steel shank boots, ankle high. Scrape your first aid stuff, what you listed would take care of a scratch or small lac. As someone else noted, Joplin (and other major storms) will inflict major injuries that will require a different set of EMS supplies. Also, if someone is going to a hospital, the last thing the ER wants to see is antibiotic creams or other salves. They'll have to spend extra time to clean the wound before treatment can be provided. Other things you should have is ANSI approved safety goggles (NOT glasses), N95 respiratory mask (paper type, not the industrial type), heavy, long sleeve shirt and an ANSI approved hard hat. Extra helmet light and flashlights and fresh batteries are a must. This should get you started.
 

J Tyler

EF3
Mar 6, 2010
247
9
11
Dallas TX/Born & Raised in OK
Greg, thank you for chiming in with that info. Please feel free to correct or add other thoughts to my post as well.

Traveling with the storm, chasers usually arrive on scene first. Growing up in a small town, you stand up when help is needed. BUT, I know my training is limited. Even so, I can help. I've driven victims to the hospital due to blood loss (not wanting to wait for help to arrive). My wife and I have fanned out in a neighborhood calling out, when firetrucks arrived we were able to tell them which houses we had gotten responses from and how many people were supposed to be in each house. We've used our ham radio to ask other hams to make phone calls for victims to let family know they were ok. We've searched along side local police/fire, marking houses that have been checked. It all depends on how local authorities welcome you, or don't welcome you.

Once responders arrive, I tell them what I know, then ask them if I can be of any assistance. 90% of the time, I'm told no. I then move on to see if there are any other areas where help has not arrived yet.

As for search/rescue equipment, my wife and I both have steel toe boots with puncture resistant sole plates to prevent us from stepping on nails. Reflective vests so we can see each other (and look less like looters). Heavy gloves. CERT hard hats. LED 'headlights' you wear. Maglights of all sizes, and a high powered searchlight.

Be careful of using flares in case there is a gas leak (very common) or gasoline on the ground.

Be ready to lose a few tires along the way. You'll be surprised how many flats you'll get when you venture into areas hit...

Small towns usually are VERY appreciative. The larger the town gets, the worse you'll be treated by the local police/fire. Thats been my personal experience.
 

Steven Yezek

I myself carry a basic truama kit (state certified EMT-I), Reflective safety vest, gloves, hardhat and flashlight. Once in a while I may through my turnout gear in as well. I would avoid using any flares, like tyler mentioned, you dont need to add any spark around possible gas leaks. The important thing is to keep it simple. No matter what you carry, when you come into a town that has been hit, you wont have enough supplies to do everything. But no matter what you do, always remember one thing. Scene safety... You cant help anyone if you get hurt, plus you've just added to the problem. I know we all want to help, and many can do simple things. But I urge people to avoid doing too much unless you've had some training, rather it be through a first aid class, Fire dept training, or CERT. Plus always work in pairs. But I cant stress enough the importance of scene safety
 

Jason Foster

You'll have to pardon me, but I only carry a basic 1st Aid kit. I think in general chasers need to be a get in and get out crowd. I know there is a lot of talk, and many have jumped on this first responder business (for some it's a great marketing / attention getting maneuver), but it seems to be getting a little silly now. It's still a recreation for many...and all this extra equipment seems silly.

That said...if you are already coming from that EMT type background...Thank You...seriously appreciate what you do.
 

rdale

EF5
Mar 1, 2004
7,256
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50
Lansing, MI
skywatch.org
all this extra equipment seems silly.
It won't when you stumble upon a scene with people injured and need of help - and all you can do is drive away. There's an interesting article in this month's IAEM newsletter talking about how society is becoming more and more introverted with time. People have no need or desired to help others in their community like they did in the 50's. I agree, and don't think it's a good trend.
 
Wow Jason thats a pretty ignorant statement ... I guess the truckers that was injured in there semis On I 44 in Joplin was pretty fortunate we stopped instead of you huh ? You see that day I was with Cloud 9 Tours ..WHO the paying Guest were there for recreation...But were the first to jump out of the vehicles and assist many of the semis that were mangled .......But yea your right First Responders is for attention seekers ....... Drew I carry a pick axe..Maul ..straps ..2 extension chords..two work lights ..sawzaw...impact drill ...a trauma bag enough to assist 10 people ... steal toe boots ...a head lamp...and gloves ... and Pillows and blankets
 

Jason Foster

It won't when you stumble upon a scene with people injured and need of help - and all you can do is drive away. There's an interesting article in this month's IAEM newsletter talking about how society is becoming more and more introverted with time. People have no need or desired to help others in their community like they did in the 50's. I agree, and don't think it's a good trend.
Well, there is also the matter of people helping and acting beyond their ability. THIS is the point I'm trying to make. Some have exhibited that they have no business helping. I'm not saying that if you can help, you shouldn't. But from FB to even a few here, that they may be pushing their abilities and legal liability limits. And we do live in a very litigious society...so it does draw hesitation. Remember the ARES / RACES folks that we all heard about trying to tell COPS what to do because they felt they had some authority on a scene or situation, that is the danger here.

Wow Jason thats a pretty ignorant statement ... I guess the truckers that was injured in there semis On I 44 in Joplin was pretty fortunate we stopped instead of you huh ? You see that day I was with Cloud 9 Tours ..WHO the paying Guest were there for recreation...But were the first to jump out of the vehicles and assist many of the semis that were mangled .......But yea your right First Responders is for attention seekers ....... Drew I carry a pick axe..Maul ..straps ..2 extension chords..two work lights ..sawzaw...impact drill ...a trauma bag enough to assist 10 people ... steal toe boots ...a head lamp...and gloves ... and Pillows and blankets
You know...if you want to start a flame war, take it someplace else man. You are taking it too personal. If you wanted a more in-depth response...well you screwed the pooch. I'll only say you are DEAD WRONG in your assessment ! ! You also didn't think about what I was saying.
 

J Allen

EF1
Mar 7, 2010
79
0
5
Palisades, NY
Drew and Others - Regarding First aid kits/preparedness,
The big thing if you are concerned is response time. First response is very important for most of these scenarios as time is a real limiting factor on life in a high grade trauma. Airway compromised - 5 minutes before brain damage, Arterial bleed - 2-30 minutes alive depending on the artery and situation, CPR required - 5 minute window, Spinal Injury/Neck Injury - Immobilising the patient and giving them support may mean they get to walk again. I won't claim to be a medical expert, because I am not (if you want the best advice ask Jason Persof), but I do have reasonable first aid training and wilderness first aid background. In terms of kit I don't carry too heavy (if I was based in the states I would carry a bigger kit, as space is an issue for me), but the kit I have is extensive enough that I can help multiple people with moderate injuries, or a couple if more significant - A lot of it is non-stick dressings/ material to staunch/control bleeding and for dealing with blood loss, Saline for irrigation (though generally should be left to the professionals unless extended period before treatment), CPR mask, gloves, note pad/paper (hint gathering a history from the person if at all possible is one of the most valuable bits of info you can give to medical people, saves their time and helps triage). I also carry a brand new ventolin puffer...its a little odd but these sort of things can trigger stress induced asthma and people who have lost their puffers might be in trouble. It also doubles in case I run into trouble with my normal ;). Another thing to think about for your kit is that it may not be just this situation for which it is applied - imagine you or your chase partner got struck by lightning or a road accident? One other thing. If you are dealing with a serious trauma don't just be bound by your first aid kit, belts make effective tourniquets for the various conditions that require them, clean shirts can be ripped and used to pad around an injury, etc etc.

When it comes to the first aid realistically the most important thing is to determine to the best of your abilities if injuries are life threatening and countering that until the professionals arrive. Only do what you are qualified and comfortable to do (if you can't handle blood/gore/injuries in a calm cool manner, stay out of it despite what people might say - if you are going to fall to pieces in the damage area you are not going to be of much use, in saying this if you are the only one close try to help if you possibly can).

As for other items:
- Adequate footwear is a must- steel-capped boots preferred.
- High quality work gloves if your going to have to move debris
- Good quality torch and spare batteries.
- A bright shirt/jacket/wet weather gear - so you are visible.

After that for me it becomes a fire service/people with the right equipment exercise...when I was on the scene of the Grove EF-3 on the same day as Joplin I could only get so far into the damage path safely, and knowing that properly equipped firefighters were only a mile away I chose to search where I could, and finding no-one in danger I then went and notified the fire crew who quickly responded (all told they were there within 10 minutes of the damage being inflicted, my help was no longer required so I was able to continue chasing).

Anyway I hope this is of use.
 
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Apr 1, 2009
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Indialantic, FL
I'm not sure you can prepare for a Joplin type scenario. It was reported that ambulances had run out of supplies 4 hours into the incident, and they're pretty well stocked. ;)

I think having a first aid kit is a must, and of course taylor it to your abilities. Someone with basic CPR training doesn't need a combitube intubation kit. Remember that the good Samaritan laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In some areas you aren't covered if you're providing medical care beyond your training. As an EMT I do carry a few extra goodies, but I can't carry enough for a mass casualty situation. You have to remember most medical supplies expire.

Having said all that I think the number 1 important thing for everyone is gloves, and I'm talking latex type gloves. If you get blood or other fluids on your skin you're taking a huge risk. (even greater than chasing storms LOL) Even if you're not medically trained you can help at the direction of medical personnel, and you'll want gloves. Besides they're cheap and they come in handy for car repairs too. :cool:

Reasonable footwear is also a must. I'm not carrying FF boots with me, but I do remember yelling at the TV when I watched Timmer hunt through rubble in flip flops. #epicfail
 
May 2, 2010
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Springfield, IL
It seems to me, based on the chaser accounts I've read over the past couple of years, that aside from extreme events like Joplin, chasers don't usually have to get involved in heavy duty search and rescue operations. More often than not they may simply have to wade through some debris to make sure that the occupants of a house or car are OK, or to round up some farm animals (this occurred during a chase not too far from me near Girard IL back in April). In that case, just making sure you're properly dressed or equipped with closed-toe shoes or boots, rain gear, and work gloves, some basic hand tools, plus a basic first aid kit, is probably sufficient 99.9 percent of the time.
 

Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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I have often found over the years that chasers can play an important part in disaster scene assistance. But as others have noted, making sure the scene is safe is critical.

In many situations, chasers without advanced medical training can only do so much for the injured. In most tornado strike situations there are a lot of blunt trauma, broken bones, impaled objects and bleeding. If chasers can learn three first-aid things well, controlling bleeding, treating for shock and spine protection it might be the best way to go. When it comes to CPR and advanced treatments, these procedures *may* be less common (on scene) since triage procedures often dictate who is assisted or not. These are often very hard choices.

As for assisting, chasers without medical experience can always lend a hand by helping to clear streets and guide rescuers and medical personnel to victims. Some of the biggest dangers include live power lines, gas leaks, nails and sharp objects, falling debris (from existing damage), chemical / bio hazards and storm-related dangers like lightning.

As for basic equipment: as an EMT I carry a basic trauma bag with a LOT of sterile bandages / wraps since these will be most useful in mass disaster situations. When I covered Hurricane Katrina in Biloxi, MS, these came in handy.

As for basic safety equipment to carry:

Road flares
Heavy duty mechanic / swat gloves and surgical gloves
A really good flashlight w/extra batteries
A reflective vest
A basic first aid kit with extra wraps, tape and bandages
A sharp folding knife
Good boots with Kevlar or steel protection. (Converse makes a great shoe but they are expensive. Boot no: 6750)
Fire extinguisher

W.
 

nrjohnson

Enthusiast
Feb 17, 2020
3
0
1
Calgary, AB
Along with a Storm Chasers "Go Kit" (change of clothes, toiletries etc in case we stay somewhere over night)
I also pack my rescue helmet, gloves, eye protection, fire rated jumpsuit and first responder boots.
I have a Trauma Kit with medical and triage supplies. Fire extinguisher, gas cut off wrench
Finally I have a tote with basic rescue hand tools, rescue saw and chain saw but rarely take that. as we have so much camera and storm chase gear and i only have a Nissan Frontier
 
Jun 12, 2019
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55
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Michigan
Looks like this thread had the dust blown off of it, so I'd like to add one thing: Administering any type of drug to a patient you come across could cause very big problems (for them and/or for you). One of the previous replies mentioned Ventolin (albuterol). If you carry it for you, that's totally fine, but as a prescription medication, if you administer it to someone else that isn't you, even if you honestly think they need it, there could be major consequences. It's a slippery slope. I wouldn't do it.

I will, however, be another voice supporting the [get first aid training/get CPR certified/take direction from local authorities/perform up to your level of training/don't become a victim yourself] statements that have already been made. As for equipment, plenty of good suggestions have already been listed. Instead, I'll leave a quote here from my first Fire Chief: "Emergency medicine in the field isn't always a sterile practice. It's PRE-hospital care. Do what you can with what you have."

Source: Licensed EMT and firefighter who experienced one tornado incident in a neighboring jurisdiction (EF-3 damage).
 
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May 25, 2014
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Drug administration within your scope of practice, and within proper parameters (medical command authorization, expiry dates, etc) is and should be fine. One great way to wind up sued, as a provider, is to have all your ducks lined up on delivering a dose of medication that could have been a lifesaver, and then withholding treatment, and then let someone find out about it.

This is one industry where you better know the book, play by the book, and don't deviate from the book.
 
Jun 12, 2019
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Michigan
Drug administration within your scope of practice, and within proper parameters (medical command authorization, expiry dates, etc) is and should be fine. One great way to wind up sued, as a provider, is to have all your ducks lined up on delivering a dose of medication that could have been a lifesaver, and then withholding treatment, and then let someone find out about it.

This is one industry where you better know the book, play by the book, and don't deviate from the book.
I would agree with you, provided you are in your state of licensure/within the area of your assigned medical control authority. Out of state, I would make my abilities known to the AHJ, and let them direct my actions, if they want to use me. I (personally) would not transport controlled medications out of my home state, regardless of my ability to posses or administer them as part of my job within my state/locality.

But yes, know the rules pertaining to your scope of practice and its limits. 1000%.
 

Chris Jackson

Enthusiast
Oct 1, 2019
3
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1
Cayce, South Carolina
There are a ton of simple, everyday items you can kit out with you to help assist in search ops, post-tornado/natural disaster.

A few off the top of my head that I always have handy with me.
- Flagging Tape. (Used to mark anything of importance, also in the wilderness environment, you can flag your route by tying a piece to a tree branch every 100 meters or so. Also, know your step count in the wilderness environment. Basically measure out 100 meters and walk it 3-4 times and count your steps then average it out. This is extremely useful in keeping track of your distance traveled. And because you can't rely on tech, post disaster, it always works.)

- 18-24" Piece of Weed Eater String. - Any firefighter should know basic forcible entry and how to defeat most common door locks. In the event you have to get into a house for whatever (appropriate) reason, you'd be surprised how easy it is to quickly manipulate a lock.

- Chemlights. - For night ops, easy way to be seen with a dull, non white light that will kill your night vision.

- IR Patch. If there are aerial assets in use at night, you can be easily spotted via IR googles/camera from National Guard/Coast Guard pilots and crews.

- A good compass. Spend at least 40 bucks otherwise, it will not be accurate enough for any precise land navigation. Know how to use it with USNG Maps.

- Helmet. Because shit falls. I rock a Kask with a selectable headlamp (White LED/Soft Red).

- A nice, high-quality chest harness with pockets for a wet/dry note pad and pen and so on.
If you find yourself searching solo, write notes of where you are and try to be as precise as possible and jot down anything of significance and upon the arrival of local responders, find the IC or OPS guy and have a good pass down of info. They will thank you, trust me.

- A durable and sharp pocket knife.

- Boots that have shank protection.
- Spare changing of clothes.
- A handful of MRE's.
- Water Bladder (Camelbak type). Dehydration sucks.

I could literally spend the rest of the day thinking about small items that have great purpose in the field.

Personally, if I am chasing the Southeast, I have my kit with me at all times in my truck.
- Everything above plus medical bag, Swiftwater gear (Two PFD's, a 50' throwbag, 4 carabiners, booties, gloves, shredder fins, dive mask, and a 3mil wetsuit.), Two 200' life safety rope bags, 2 Class iii harnesses, brake bar rack, 8 carabiners, two double prussik minding pulleys, 2 pieces of 6' webbing, 2 pieces of 3' webbing tied with a water knot (used as a Klemheist hitch), 4 prussiks,

Something else of consideration and warning from personal experience.
If you somehow find yourself searching for a missing person and decide to document any relevant clues to pass along (in good faith of course) to the folks in charge and if it is being investigated criminally, prepare to have said device confiscated for them to recover the pictures and metadata from your device in their command post. I learned that during a wilderness search about 8 years ago. The FBI and National Park Service Rangers politely but assertively asked me, rather told me to hand over my device after I told them I took some photos of clues/potential evidence. Just be mindful that if this happens, they can and will see anything personal on that device. At the time I had a rather outgoing girl in my life that routinely sent images that I wouldn't have been happy with the world seeing.

Needless to say, after that incident, I took an old bricked iPhone and just kept it around for that very reason because, yeah.
 
Jan 16, 2009
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Kansas City
I have a red cross large first aid kit that I bought in 2009 that I luckily have never had to use. I need a new one that has just about everything in it to handle basic trauma found after a tornado or on the road with an accident ... any suggestions? Note I am first aid and CPR trained.
 
Jun 12, 2019
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55
6
Michigan
I need a new one that has just about everything in it to handle basic trauma found after a tornado or on the road with an accident ... any suggestions?
Hi James, have you considered putting your own together instead of picking up a kit? I've found the kits (especially the bigger ones) often include things most folks aren't likely to use, have OTC 'medication' (like bee sting swabs) with expiration dates that need to be monitored (or that may leak all over the rest of your stuff), and may contain equipment that is beyond the training level of the person using it.

If you end up putting your own kit together, you'll know where everything is located (because you put it there), and you won't be needlessly paying for things you aren't going to use. For the sort of incidents that we would come across, you nailed it--trauma is the name of the game. That said, if you build a kit, I'd encourage you to put the following things in it:
  • PPE
    • Nitrile gloves and eye protection (no latex gloves due to prevalence of latex allergies)
  • A good set of trauma shears*
  • Lots of gauze dressings/pads
    • 4x4s are the most common and fit the bill for most lacerations, you can get them individually packaged, or in bulk stacks. They're cheap; get a bunch.
    • Combi-pads/abdominal pads for the bigger stuff. You may never use them, but they're not expensive, and if you need one, you'll be relieved to have it.
  • Bandaging to hold the gauze pads in place and free up your hands for other stuff
    • Cling wrap (Kerlix) wraps around the dressing and sticks to itself. Might take a few wraps, it's good to have a few rolls.
    • Compression cling wrap (Coban) is like Kerlix, but is elastic/stretchy and keeps some circumferential pressure on an area when applied--be careful using this so as not to impede circulation (especially on a patient that may be shocky or have compromised blood pressure), but if you have first aid training, I'm guessing that was probably covered.
    • Triangular Bandages (Cravats) are durable, non-stretchy bandages that are good for splinting and making slings. I'd keep a few of these in your kit as well (be careful not to lose the safety pins that come with them!).
    • Bandage tape
      • Clear Plastic Tape (Transpore) sticks to skin, is flexible, easy to tear, and can hold a small dressing/piece of gauze in place against the skin, where wrapping would be impractical.
      • Cloth Tape (Medipore) is a bit stronger, is non-stretchy, and nice for splinting or securing dressings when Kerlix or Coban won't do, and has a bit of non-medical utility for, you know, just taping stuff.
  • A box of Band-Aids: the larger 1" size (these are mostly for you... because if you get a cut when you're out and need a band-aid, what do you do? Raid your kit! ...or is that just me?)
  • A good CPR pocket mask (or BVM if you're trained to use one)
  • A tourniquet or two (if you're trained to apply them). Use as a last resort when direct pressure with the gauze pads can't stop bleeding. They come in nice pre-packaged kits--familiarize yourself with how the model you get is applied before you need to use it. If you ever do come across a person bleeding out who really needs it, you ideally don't want to take additional time to remove and read the instruction sheet.
  • Airway management (within your level of training!) If you're trained to manage airways with things like suction, adjuncts, and the like, then pack the appropriate supplies. If not, then knowing and applying the basic airway maneuvers and techniques will be just fine.
* You know those trauma shears that are advertised to cut through a penny? Guess what, they do! And guess what else? It ruins the shears! My curiosity cost me a new set of shears. Don't be like me.

There's some other trauma stuff you can put in there too, like chest seals, hemostatic agents/dressings, splints, airway adjuncts, etc. but only consider these if your level of training covers their use. Also, the supplies in the original list will work in the vast majority of cases you come across (and you may never come across a case where they're needed). The fancier stuff will add cost to your kit, and possibly never get used. Of course, if you have the means to purchase them and the training to use them, then by all means go ahead. But for the chaser on a budget, I'd recommend starting with the basics. Remember, if you come across someone who legitimately needs help, your goals are to (a) keep them from further harm, (b) stabilize them to the best of your ability, and (c) get them to definitive care (like a hospital), or to EMS, who will in turn get them to definitive care.

As for a bag, my department uses MERET, which has held up well with daily use. That might be overkill for a kit that lives in the car, though. 5.11 has some bags too, and their stuff is usually pretty nice/durable. Of course, if your existing bag is in good shape, you can just re-use that. And don't forget the original EMS jump kits were fishing tackle boxes! Nothing says it need to be a purpose-built medical bag.

Anyway, long answer to a short question. Hope this helps!
 
Jun 12, 2019
46
55
6
Michigan
No problem! I should mention that I had suggested 5.11 and MERET for [empty] bags. They do each make a few bags that you can order pre-stocked, but if you go that route, be sure to check the 'parts list' to make sure it comes with what you want, and that you feel comfortable using the equipment. Otherwise, I'd recommend the built-a-kit route.
 
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Warren Faidley

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May 7, 2006
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I use a backpack-type bag for my gear (similar to the one pictured below). These come in all sizes with a host of complexities and costs. It fits nicely in the chase vehicle. I do suggest labeling pockets so you (or someone using your bag) won't be fumbling through pockets to find something. I carry a pocket PerSys BVM that fits nicely in the bag. I also carry a separate, much smaller bag with gloves, tourniquets and a few larger bandages. This bag is to hand off to someone else to use in a mass casualty situation.
 

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