The line between preparedness and paranoia

It recently came to the attention of some folks I was working with that I made a habit of keeping a first aid kit in the backpack I usually carry with me. They thought that this was a strange practice. One even went so far as to ask if it wasn’t a bit paranoid to carry a first aid kit wherever you go. I’d imagine a sizeable chunk of the population would agree with that sentiment seeing as how the vast majority of them get through the average day without needing a first aid kit. Not even ten minutes after someone questioned the level of paranoia necessary to keep a first aid kit handy another someone managed to slice themselves open. At the moment when the dismissive individuals were faced with someone bleeding and teetering on the edge of going unconscious due to being panicked at the sight of their own blood, they stared in (mostly) mute helplessness. It was left to the “paranoid” guy to open up the med kit no one else had the foresight to bring or apparently inclination to use, glove up, and apply some gauze to stop the bleeding.

It wasn’t a life threatening injury…and thank heavens for that. The people who thought I was a bit touched in the head weren’t much help in the situation. Even in this very minor event with only a little bit of blood spilled (by my standards, anyway) they seemed incapable of following the clearest of directions or performing a simple action they had performed many times in the past like starting a car so we could get the victim somewhere they could receive proper care. I don’t really want to know what it would be like to try and manage them in a situation where the bleeding was serious and someone’s life was at stake.

The line between paranoia and preparedness is usually drawn by experience...
The line between paranoia and preparedness is usually drawn by experience…

Most don’t like to dwell on the more unpleasant possibilities of life and I totally understand that. I don’t spend my free time contemplating doom, either…but when something like this happens you get the feeling that some have never contemplated even the possibility that something bad will happen. And sometimes they’re pretty smug about it.

We see this frequently in the discussion of firearms policy. Those who campaign for more gun control often react as if anyone who believes that they might need to defend themselves is either a lunatic or eager vigilante hoping to kill somebody and get away with it. They seem to hold particular scorn for those who keep weapons or supplies on hand in case of a breakdown in social order because that sort of thing never happens.

You’d have to be some sort of tin-foil wearing, paranoid lunatic to think that social order is going to break down in, say, St. Louis. It’s Missouri, for crying out loud. Not Mosul. Oh…wait. Well, it’s not like there’s ever been social unrest in the aftermath of a police use of force before, right?

It’s ridiculous and indicative of a warped mind to have a gun or a first aid kit handy right up until the point when somebody is bleeding or there’s a mob setting the neighborhood on fire. Not long after we started hanging out, Todd told me about someone who worked with his wife who regarded private ownership of firearms to be an absolute evil. On 9/11 when the whole country seemed to be under attack and with rumors that every federal building in DC had been blown up, this person sought refuge with Todd because…Todd had guns.

Those who will make fun of you for taking some sort of responsibility for what happens in this world will, without even the slightest hesitation, try to squeeze themselves under the protective umbrella of your good judgment when things go badly. When the danger is over, they’ll return to contempt without any sense of irony or ability to even recognize the folly of it. Some people will still think I have some sort of psychological defect because I have a med kit handy. It doesn’t matter that when someone was bleeding I was the only guy on scene who had a plan or any capability to do something useful…I’ll still be a nut to a chunk of them.

I’m going to continue carrying my first aid kit, though. The sort of people who dismiss the bits of real life which inconveniently intrude on their opinions aren’t ever going to see the light…but there are a lot of people out there who agree with the anointed ones only because they haven’t really considered the question for themselves yet. When they feel the hot breath of real life on their necks, perspectives change. Which might be why gun sales in St. Louis have quadrupled in the last few days and why I’m suddenly getting questions about what sort of stuff should be readily available for dealing with the sort of problem I fixed the other day. Some people, it seems, can learn.

Don’t let the inexperienced, the feckless, or the willfully stupid draw the line that separates preparedness and paranoia in your mind. Those people, after all, will not help you when things go wrong. If things do indeed go wrong, you’ll find their opinion offers little comfort when someone is bleeding and stuff is on fire.





  1. I say good to carry a first aid kit. I am an RN and I carry a small one in my car. (I don’t need to carry one to my work since my workplace is where you want to make it to if you are hurt.) I use Imodium, ibuprofen and band aids way more than anything else. Paper towels and tape for bigger wounds. I suppose a diaper from a diaper bag would help with stopping bad bleeding. Tampons come shaped like bullet holes are are made to stop bleeding. Pressure is most important.
    If you have the trauma shears (or a sharp knife and some skill) and no big gauze sponge or not enough gauze you can cut off clothing to pack into wound. If you go to a hospital ED with a trauma wound you will likely get your clothing cut off anyway and if the bleeding is bad enough clothing may be ruined anyway.
    Clothing is not sterile like gauze but in some cases you would rather live long enough for infection to be a problem.
    Being flexible and creative is important.

    1. TAMPONS ARE NOT MADE TO BE USED ON BULLET WOUNDS. Great for a bloody nose (we used them for that purpose in rugby all the time. Best if cut in half. Leave string dangling for added hilarity.) Tourniquets, QuickClot, Kerlix, and large, thick gauze pads are for bullet wounds. And fast transport to the hospital or an ambulance on standby is the best medicine. Also, based on your statement, it seems that you’re referring to the entry wound from a bullet. As any hunter or ER doc can tell you, the exit wound is often not as neat.

      Eric, my intent is not to criticize you at all. In fact, you didn’t even say that tampons should be used for bullet wounds, just that “Tampons come shaped like bullet holes and are made to stop bleeding”. But someone could easily read that and think that a tampon is the best medicine for a bullet wound. It is not. It’s not even second best.

      1. A tampon may not be made to be used on a bullet wound, but it is better than a sharp stick in the eye.

        A tampon is actually not bad if don’t try to just stab it in the wound. Cut the tampon lengthwise, and then stretch it out like a super thick gauze.

  2. Tim:

    Great article. I live in a small midwestern town where the most excitement we get usually rolls in from California on a Grayhound bus (a released felon who stabbed a police officer). Many of my associates think I am paranoid because I keep a supply of firearms, food, medical supplies and ammo on hand. I was feeling on the edge of needing a doctors help with my “prepping” until two of my friends who are police officers told their wifes that when the lights go out, get to Bill’s house.

    I too carry a med kit, actually a blow out bag. Because I carry a firearm 99% of my time away from home, I feel it is prudent, heck the life I safe may be my own. The bag has gloves, a trama bandage and wrap, trama shears, quick clot and a CAT. Pretty cheap insurance in case my 50+ years of safely carring a firearm goes horribly wrong.

  3. So you’ve got a First Aid Kit and Know How to use it !

    First Aid Merit Badge was one of the 1st. Went after in the Boy Scouts way back in …. They sure spent enough time in Army Basic Training on nifty items like how to treat a Sucking Chest Wound using your G.I. Poncho, in part !

    Lastly, how many matches have we all been to, where someone cut their hand on a gun or from hot brass, etc., and didn’t even have a Bandaid in their wallet or that humongous Range Bag ?

  4. This is a kind of different and better way of saying what I say about our current generation, “They aren’t capable of doing anything.” Can’t mow the grass, can’t change a light fixture, can’t apply more than a band aid when needed. A current generation adult once asked myself and another retired Navy veteran how often we really used the Swiss Army knives we carry – let me count the daily ways…

  5. Couple of things come to mind other than its a great idea to have a first aid kit handy. So, first thing, what happens if you’re the one needing attention and are about to pass out? You can’t be “the go-to guy” if you’re the one injured. May I suggest that your company start a First Aid training program? I think the Red Cross provides Train the trainer type training if not outright training. It may help get your head-in-the-sand co-workers to help the next time. There is always a next time.

  6. I always keep a (fairly basic) first aid kit in my truck. I go to school at U of Missouri St. Louis, which freaked me out when I heard about Ferguson, since it’s about 2 miles away.
    Luckily, school is still 2 weeks away from starting.
    Since my backpack is stuffed with books and my laptop, I have a small kit with a couple bandages in it.

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