The Ins and Outs of Tactical First Aid Kits

There are minimalists and there is the “just in case” type of people. The common agreement is that a medic in a combat environment needs enough equipment and resources to stabilise a critically injured patient. This gear should be carried on their body, in a carry-on medical pack, or both.

The tactical medic already carries around 10 to 20 kg of gear in addition to the medical equipment. The body armour/ballistic plates and helmet account for the majority of the weight. Weapons, ammo, incapacitating agents, a knife, multi-tool, collapsible baton, radio/headset, lighting systems (including infrared), gas mask, eye protection, and a hydration system are examples of non-medical equipment.

Binoculars, cameras, computer tablets, body-cooling systems, and night vision goggles are some of the less typical devices. Additional equipment will be required depending on the operational environment, such as cold weather or a hazardous materials incident. Some of the equipment is set aside for training and standby events including team tryouts, swim tests, physical training days, and range days. Some might be kept on hand at the on-site ambulance.

Medical Equipment for Tactical Use

medic pouch with medical equipment inside

In general, the tactical medic’s equipment one should have in their professional medic pouch can be classified into a few categories. The pouch itself should be adequately water-resistant to protect everything inside when it rains or snows. Should also feature a lot of different compartments and pockets for quick access to whatever one would need in an emergency.

Personal Safety Equipment (PPE)

This isn’t about ballistic protection, it’s about medical PPE. Gloves, a mask, and eye protection should all be included in your medic pouch if you want to be considered fully equipped.

Instruments for Evaluating Patients

A stethoscope, blood pressure cuff, micropulse oximeter, thermometer, and CO2 monitor are among the tools needed to assess, visualise, and measure vital functions.

A lightweight, portable I-Stat machine is kept on hand by one high-calibre tactical team to assess blood chemistry and electrolytes, especially during endurance training and team selection competitions.

Trauma Equipment

Man wearing trauma equipment for first aid kit

These are instruments used to cease bleeding or seal off wounds caused by penetrating trauma:

  • Hemostatic dressings in a variety of sizes and uses (Quik Clot, Celox)
  • Regular dressings in a wide range of sizes
  • Combination of bandage wraps, including Israeli Bandage, “H” wrap, Kling Roll gauze, NAR S-Rolled Gauze, Ace wraps, and others (some of these come with a dressing, while others don’t)
  • Heavy-duty multipurpose tape
  • Multiple sizes are required for open chest injury sealing
  • C-A-T, SWAT-T, SOFT-T, and other tourniquets

Airway and Breathing Management

This section of your medic pouch can include anything from a basic oropharyngeal airway to a complete airway management system. The following items are examples of possible equipment:

  • Basic airway stabilisation and protection, such as oral and nasal airways, a pocket mask, and a manual suction device, such as the V-Vac Collapsible bag valve mask (Cyclone Pocket).
  • Having a supply of over-the-counter (OTC) medications on hand can help prevent mild symptoms from becoming more serious, as well as the emergence of allergies. Ibuprofen, pepto-bismol, and allergy drugs like claritin seem to be the most frequently requested medications.

Basic Supplies for Minor Injuries, Blisters, and Skincare

One woman helping the other one with medic kit because she got Minor Injuries

A Band-Aid is by far the most frequently requested item. The medic’s job entails minor wound care regularly. It’s essential to have a supply of sticky bandages in various sizes on hand. Minor wound cleansing tools/wipes, as well as topical antibiotic ointment, are frequently required.

Have a good supply of breathable and non-breathable tape in all different sizes. Tweezers, forceps, small scissors, and wound/eye irrigation supplies are all frequently used enough to deserve a spot in the medical pouch.

Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics

Orthopaedic injuries are prevalent in training, and they do occur during SWAT operations on occasion. Individuals may have underlying orthopaedic conditions that are aggravated during operations and require medical assessment and monitoring. It’s a bonus if you have experience with sports medicine or orthopaedic injuries.

Taping, bracing, and in-field stabilisation of orthopaedic injuries are among the required skills for these injuries. SAM splints are suitable for the majority of splinting requirements. Cold packs and compression wraps are two of the most requested pain elevators.

Prescription Medications
For a variety of reasons, this is a no-go zone for many tactical teams. An ALS provider may be permitted if the medic is approved by a physician’s medical director.

Individual iFak Pouch

In addition to what the tactical medic carries, each SWAT member should have their own individual first aid kit (IFAK) and be well educated on its use. The IFAK should be worn on the operators’ vests so it is reachable with either hand. The following items are examples of possible equipment for your ifak pouch:

  • Small pocket mask
  • Trauma scissors
  • SWAT-T, CAT Tourniquets
  • Decompression Equipment
  • Trauma dressings (Israeli type)
  • 4-6 dressings for hemostasis
  • 2-3 chest seals that are open (Bolin, Hyfin, Asherman)
  • Compression bandages, 4 roller gauze
  • Strong duty tape (e.g. NARP Gecko tape)

As you can see, the tactical medic’s medical kit is intended to meet the demands of the entire team. The personal first aid kit equipment however will be useful in the operational environment in decreasing the level of injury and stress – and promoting a better outcome in the efforts of injury prevention.