We all know that our sport can be dangerous and deadly when accidents occur. When they do occur the best defense is to be prepared to deal with the injuries that may be present. The local paramedics should be called right away but what if your DZ is isolated from the local town or maybe the injury is minor and does not need professional help.
What sort of things should you have on your Drop Zone? Where should the first aid equipment be located? What involvement can the local rescue squad, fire department and police department have?
All of these questions will be addressed.
While one DZ with a trained medical professional may have first aid equipment items A, B, C, D and E. A local DZ without trained personnel may only have A and B. There are many things that can be useful in the case of an emergency but many medical supplies can be dangerous and deadly if you do not have the proper knowledge to use them.
Every DZ should have a basic first aid kit. The kit should include bandages to control bleeding, ice packs for injuries, slings for upper extremity injuries, splints for fractures, ace wraps for sprains, sterile saline or hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol to clean cuts and abrasions.
What else should you have? Shears or heavy scissors to cut off clothing, jump suits or rigs if the need arises. A watch with a second hand. This will allow you to accurately check the pulse or respirations per minute. A stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. These are fairly simple to use and you can learn quickly from a trained medical professional how to take an accurate blood pressure. A pen and notepad can be invaluable. They can be used to record the time of injury, pulse, respirations, blood pressure, phone numbers and also to mark where a pulse can be felt on an injured arm or leg.
What else can be useful?
There are many things that can be useful to someone trained in the medical field. Things that I have found useful at the DZ are oxygen tanks and masks, cervical collars and intravenous equipment to start fluid resuscitation to name a few. These are not things that should be used haphazardly and can be harmful if not used properly by trained medical professionals.
However, if you are the DZO or ST&A; at a local DZ and have trained paramedics, nurses or physicians discuss with them what they would be comfortable having available in the event of emergency and have that equipment available to them.
Where should you put the First Aid Kit
The kit should be placed in a central location. It should be easily accessible and everyone that will be involved in the case of an injury should know its location. There is no point in having it locked in a locker or office if everyone has to go searching for the person with the key. At some larger DZ's there may realistically be a need for more than one first aid kit depending on the layout of the DZ.
If you have a trained medical professional on the DZ and have supplies that should be used only by those with a medical license, separate the equipment. Have a central, accessible kit containing only basic equipment including bandages, ice packs, splints, etc. In a more secure location have a second first aid kit with more advanced equipment that will only be given to those who are trained to use it.
Get People Involved
For the past few years at Skydive Cross Keys the DZO has worked closely with the local fire department and rescue squad. Every spring the local departments come to the DZ with all of their equipment. On site at the DZ they practice extricating a skydiver from a tree and run drills with different accident scenarios.
The fire and rescue personnel also get familiarized with skydiving equipment and learn first hand about the helmets, jumpsuits and rigs.
Give your local squad a call and find out if they would be interested in doing similar drills at your DZ.
Get the local authorities prepared if you are planning upcoming events at your DZ. If you have a boogie, competition or other large event planned let the local fire and rescue department know when the event will run and how many skydivers you expect. This allows the medical personnel to be prepared for injuries. Most large events that are held at my home DZ have an ambulance stationed at the DZ throughout most of the day.
As the busy skydiving season approaches for many DZ's step back and evaluate if you are as prepared as you can be. Talk to local jumpers who are medically trained. Open up the old first aid kit that is on the DZ. Are there things that need to be replaced or added to make the kit complete? Call the local ambulance or fire department and invite them to come to the DZ, practice their drills and receive an introduction to the gear they might run into.
Accidents do happen, and the best medicine is to be prepared when it happens.