Medical Plans Are Not Optional

Let me ask you a question. Think back to your last outing to the range with other people. Did you discuss a medical plan with them in case someone was hurt? Did you have a reasonable first aid kit with you? Did anyone present have any first aid training?

For many, if not most of you, the answer is going to be “No”…and that needs to change.

The more time I spend on the range the more acutely aware I become of the dangers inherent to the handling of firearms. It takes but a second of complacency or inattention for a pleasant range outing to turn into life-changing disaster. We all recite the four rules and give verbal assent to the idea that firearms are inherently dangerous objects capable of doing irreparable harm, but why doesn’t this knowledge actually make any change in our behavior and practices? Why do we go about range activities as if we’re making the assumption that bad things won’t happen?

Bad things sometimes happen to good people...having a medical plan isn't optional.
Bad things sometimes happen to good people…having a medical plan isn’t optional.

…and I’m not simply talking about your average day at the range with your friends. It’s much larger than that. The number of matches and training courses happening out there where nobody has a medical plan in place is staggering, despite the fact that everybody knows accidents and medical emergencies happen on the range. People have indeed been shot at major matches and training courses, but more “mundane” emergencies also crop up. It wasn’t that long ago that someone actually had a heart attack at a major match.

We’re buying guns and going to training to learn how to use the life-saving tool to defend our lives and that’s great…but are we giving any thought to the dangers present on the range? I think it’s time that as a community we all begin demanding more of ourselves and our events. No more training courses or matches where a medical plan isn’t discussed as part of the safety brief. (If you aren’t seeing safety briefs at courses or matches, then run.) When showing up to a match or to a course, have an Individual First Aid Kit with you…one designed to deal with penetrating trauma at a bare minimum. When you’re at a match, a course, or a range day with your friends, be the person who asks about the plan in case of medical emergency.

What does a medical plan consist of? At a minimum:

  • Communications: People assigned the responsibility of communicating with emergency medical services if there is a problem. These people have their means of communication on them at all times (cell phones, radios, etc) and their equipment is tested and working where the event is taking place. The guy responsible for communicating with 911 shouldn’t be finding out he has zero bars when trying to make that emergency call.
  • Transportation: At some locations it may not be feasible to wait for an ambulance to find the location, and so it may become necessary to move the injured person to a location EMS can get to easily. Or it may be useful to have someone actually meet the EMS responders en route to guide them to the location. Appropriate vehicles and drivers should be designated for this and staged appropriately.
  • Assessment: Prior to any shots being fired, the person with the highest level of emergency first aid training should be identified and first aid supplies should be inventoried and staged in case they are needed.
  • Delegation: Those with the highest level of emergency medical training should be in charge of the scene if there is an emergency. Those who don’t have as much training should be assigned jobs useful in the situation, whether that’s being tasked with communications, transportation, or even just acting as a runner to grab supplies or other incidentals as required by those providing direct care to the victim. Those with no assigned task should be told that their job is to stay out of the way. Assign a rally point for everyone not involved in the emergency response so people have a place to go.

Last week I mentioned that in a gunfight you have a very limited opportunity to do something useful to secure a good outcome for yourself. The same is true in a medical emergency. When someone is on the ground bleeding, response time is everything. None of the precious seconds that make the difference between life and death should be wasted trying to come up with a plan on the fly. If something bad happens everyone should know their job and should immediately get to it.

I’m asking all of us…shooters, match directors, instructors, friends, family, everybody…to make establishing a medical plan a priority in any shooting endeavor we engage in. Don’t expect someone else to make it happen, you be the person that brings it up and gets the ball rolling. If you don’t have any first aid training yourself, go get some. When you are considering training with someone, ask them about their standard medical plan before committing to the course. If we all do enough of this sooner or later everyone will get the message.

…and who knows? The life that gets saved might just be yours.


  1. Bravo on this often overlooked topic! My local club allows members to use the range for courses and such, but have two requirements: Proof of insurance, and have a first aid kit available. My biggest problem is what is desirable in a decent kit…I’ve seen kits ranging from $40ish to $400+ and end up spinning my wheels on deciding on what a good list of gear is, and end up with a basic first aid kit, Israeli bandages, and quikclot.

  2. Another thing that is worth mentioning during a safety briefing is that you should not wander off and leave while the range is “shut down” to deal with the emergency. The last thing a safety officer wants is to realize after an incident that in addition to the person who you just sent off to the hospital, there are now other people missing.

  3. One gun club I belong to is mostly shotgun oriented who’s membership is predominately senior citizens. A few years ago I proposed buying an AED or automatic defibrillator to keep in the club house, I thought it was a no brainer but the push back was staggering. Common sense finally prevailed and we bought one and mounted it close to the front door, the last time I was at the club I noticed it was gone and found out it had been stuck in a drawer inside the locked office.

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