The following post is contributed by Pete Farmer, who holds advanced degrees in research biology and history, and is also an RN and EMT.
In the first of a series, he raises a number of issues that other readers may be interesting in addressing as well. If you are knowledgable in a certain field and would like to contribute, please leave a comment in the box below.
Special thanks to Pete for his thoughtful article.
The Challenges of Medical Preparedness in a High-Tech Age
by Pete Farmer
The preparedness movement – “prepping” for short – has gone mainstream. What was formerly a movement at the margins of society has penetrated into popular culture such that Amazon.com and Costco sell preparedness supplies, and one can get a hand-cranked survival radio at Eddie Bauer. Post-apocalyptic movies and books are entertainment staples.
Anyone even remotely interested in prepping can probably identify a tipping point, such as Hurricane Katrina, which caused them to begin taking the idea seriously. Others point to the unfolding solvency crisis of the western world, or perhaps to the 9-11 attacks. Still others fear an influenza or similar pandemic. Finally, there are those people who do not fear a specific calamity or “black swan;” but simply believe in contingency planning and thereby getting a good night’s sleep. History teaches us that plans rarely survive contact with reality – but also that having plans and preparations is vastly preferable to having none. “Chance,” the old aphorism notes, “favors the prepared mind.”
Once one has made the decision to think proactively and begin prepping, the questions multiply rapidly. Authorities such as James Rawles have devoted a great deal of time and effort to developing templates and action plans, to assist would-be preppers in getting themselves and their loved ones squared away and ready to face a crisis, whatever it may be. Rawles and other authors have also explored the subject fictionally, in great detail. These are great services, ones for which we should be thankful. However, as Rawles himself notes, he is not a medical professional – hence the need for blogs like “Armageddon Medicine,” and services like Medical Corps, which offer disaster-preparedness medical training from physicians, EMTs and former medics/corpsmen.
Medical preppers face a number of obstacles found nowhere else in the movement. Subsequent articles in the series will explore some of them, as well as topics of general interest to medical preppers. Cynthia Koelker, M.D. has kindly asked me to write as a guest columnist, exploring some of the relevant issues. In doing so, I will draw upon my training and experience as a historian, a scientist, and healthcare professional (EMT & RN). In subsequent features, we will consider such subjects as the following…
1. What can history teach us about disaster preparedness? What do public health and epidemiological crises of the past teach us about prepping in the present? We will examine such past crises as the influenza pandemic of 1918, to help answer this question.
2. For which scenarios should we prepare? Which are best left to professional clinicians such as physicians, med techs or pharmacists? Which preps can be done by the lay person, and which cannot? How should we encourage our federal and state disaster management agencies to prepare?
3. Legal/regulatory barriers to medical prepping. Do we protect our turf, or protect our patients?
4. The knowledge gap: the specialized expertise of scientist-clinicians; high-tech infrastructure of medical research and implications for preppers.
5. The military medical model and its applicability to the future of preparedness. What can preppers learn from medics, corpsmen, nurses, and Doctors without Borders?
6. Know your limits. Why apocalypse and post-apocalypse medical care will make this time-tested advice more important than ever.
7. The importance of public health, and why the plumber may just be the most unrecognized and appreciated “public health worker” in America today. Why you, the medical prepper, should make friends with skilled tradesmen.
8. The medical preparedness bookshelf. Take stock of your knowledge, and add to it whenever you can. How to prepare if you didn’t go to med school.
9. Tell your representative: About medical readiness, disaster preparedness, and ask what steps he/she has taken to protect citizens in the district? Let your elected representatives know preparedness is a priority.
10. Get trained as well as you can; the importance of experience and skills.
11. Medical shelf life and storage for preppers, pertaining to such issues as drug expiration/potency, required storage such as refrigeration, and related.
12. Rediscovering medicine of the past; the importance of preserving and using “out of date” techniques and procedures in a post high-tech world.
13. Microbiology in the post-apocalyptical world – for healthcare, food production and storage, and more. What every lay person should know about basic microbiology.
14. Improvising medical care in extreme circumstances. How to keep a casualty or patient alive until you can get professional help.
15. Get to know your local emergency management professionals – they can help.
16. Conclusion and looking ahead to the future.