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The Medical Minute: Preparing home and car for emergencies

Whether traveling or at home, there are things you can do before an emergency to ensure a swift response and a better possible outcome to your situation.

Scott Buchle, program manager for Life Lion EMS at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says the biggest problem emergency personnel encounter is that people wait too long to call for help. Some call their family members or doctor’s office and waste precious time. So, it is a good idea that family members young and old know when and how to call 911.

Buchle said in a cardiac incident in particular, time is of the essence.

“We have a very narrow window that we can work with,” he said, with a four to six minute response time being crucial.

The house number should be prominent and not blocked by overgrown brush or other unkempt plants and trees. It is also important to make sure the entry ways into your house are kept clear, because responders need to get in and out the front and back doors.

Buchle also stresses the need to have your current medical information available.

“If you're having a problem, the biggest things I want to know when we come is what’s wrong, what medications, what allergies, what past medical history you have,” he said. “A lot of times what’s wrong with you now is related to a past medical problem; that all factors into how we’re going to treat you.”

In addition, the information should include your full name, emergency contact information, and your primary care physician’s contact information.

Keep this information in a purse or wallet, or something you would be likely to carry with you. Keep copies with your medications or in your well-stocked first aid kit and give one to your emergency contact.

Programs like the Vial of Life also offer the alternative of a magnetic pouch, kept on your refrigerator, in which detailed information can be stored on each family member.

While traveling, carrying the same data can be important in case of an accident.

Initiatives like the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Yellow Dot Program suggest keeping updated information on every family member in your glove compartment; however, Buchle says it is still important to carry it in a wallet or purse as well, in case you are separated from your vehicle.

He also suggests keeping a basic first aid kit in the car, carrying over-the-counter pain medications and current medications with you (not to be left in your vehicle), and having an ICE (in case of emergency) contact in your cell phone.

The standard supplies that Buchle recommends to keep in a basic first aid are:

  • Bandages of various sizes
  • 4 x 4 gauze pads
  • an ABD pad (a.k.a. an abdominal bandage)
  • Kling or an ACE bandage to wrap gauze (scissors if needed to cut bandages)
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Alcohol wipes or something to clean wounds
  • Gloves

For additional information on preparing for an emergency, including templates and how-to help for creating your own first aid kits, visit our Project Health page.

The Medical Minute is a weekly health news feature brought to you by Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Articles feature the expertise of Penn State Hershey faculty physicians and staff, and are designed to offer timely, relevant health information of interest to a broad audience.

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