FIRST AID KITS and ACCIDENT PREVENTION
This is a short discussion about what is needed for traveling and living on a boat. It is based upon my knowledge of first aid and my experiences of living on a boat in the Bahamas.
First Aid Kits can be purchased at any boating store in the USA or in Canada. However, making your own kit can be done and most purchased kits need to have additional items added to it related to the area in which the boat is taken, age of the boaters and the state of health of the individuals aboard it. Boaters need to check their kits annually and check items that may have expiration dates on it. Many people only open their kits when there is a crisis and some have no idea what is in their kits. A kit that is made or purchased needs to be encased in a plastic or metal container that is air tight and water proof and should be placed in an area of the boat where it is convenient to grab in an emergency and where everyone aboard knows it’s location.
In the United States some purchased kits are approved by the American Medical Association (AMA). They may be all purpose-home, boat, car, hiking/walking. I like kits approved by the AMA because they contain a first-aide guide for the immediate care of injured or ill patients which is good for the public with little experience in health care. Everyone should have a first aid booklet aboard their boat.
Boaters should be advised to take a basic first aid course with basic life support. These courses are offered by organizations such as the American Heart Association and the American Red Cross Association. It is possible to take an online CPR course. Information can be obtained on www.firstaidweb.com. However, I recommend that boaters should take a course from an organization where during class you practice on manikins because it is more realistic than reading about how to do it though drawings, photographs and video clips that may be used in courses. First aid is the immediate care given to a person who has been injured or has become ill until emergency medical services or a doctor can be contacted.
This discussion focuses on boats and injuries that may occur on them because most RMHYC members are boaters and they live and recreate on boats for periods of time. The person giving first aid must avoid panic and inspire confidence, protect life, minimize injury, exercise good judgment and use common sense. Most boat accidents as well as accidents in the home are preventable. The boat should be in good repair and operational at all times. Walkways and stairs should be clear of objects. Lights on the boat in marinas, docks, on the hook and under way during dusk and night time must be adequate for safety. Eye glasses and vision aids should be handy and at least two pairs of them should be placed in the same spot on the boat. Hearing aids should be worn during waking hours. Extra batteries for hearing aids should be available on your boat. Chemicals and medications should be kept in there original containers and placed where they are accessible but away from children. Boaters must have enough prescription medications with them for the length of time they plan to be away. I think it is always good to have at least an extra two week supply in case plans change while away from your home or port. Valid prescriptions can be refilled in a drugstore on most islands and cays. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors should be placed in each cabin on the boat. Fire extinguishers are placed in the galley close to the stove, laundry room, engine room and cabins. A plan for evacuation should be made in case of a fire or a need to
abandon the boat. The plan for emergency evacuation must be discussed with crew and visitors especially when traveling long distances.
Safety inspections should be done annually on your boat. Flares should be checked yearly for expiration date. A life raft with food and safety items is necessary for off shore boating. Appropriate life vests and garments should be available for everyone aboard your boat including babies and children. Passengers and crew should know where these items are kept on your boat and how to put them on the body. Visual aids on life jackets and noise items on vests/jackets are good. The type of life vest or jacket should be appropriate to the type of boating done in your area and during travel.
Objects and material needed in your first aid kit: sterile dressing pads (small medium and large), cotton tipped applicators, gauze, band aids (small, medium and large), instant compresses (hot/cold), butter-fly bandages for cuts, forceps, paper tape, adhesive tape, bandage scissors, hand wipes, disinfectants, burn gel, several pairs of disposable gloves, anti-bacterial creams, finger splint, tongue blades for immobilization, eye pads, tweezers, two ace bandages, anti- itch cream, thermometer and other over the counter medications that you generally would keep in your medicine cabinet at home. The drug stores/pharmacies in the Abacos can be used to replace over the counter medications but they are more expensive than in the US and CANADA. Valid prescriptions can be filled /refilled in the Abacos. Specific medical conditions may require that you carry special medical supplies or equipment. When in a marina you should know if the office has a first aid kit, where they are kept and if there is any medical equipment such as a wheelchair etc. The Askell Clinic in the Abacos will rent some medical equipment such as canes and walkers.
It is imperative when traveling abroad that family and friends know how to contact you in an emergency and you should share your travel plans with family and close friends also in case of an emergency.
Helpful hints for first aid kits for boaters-Rita Reis Wieczorek
Last Updated: September 1, 2012