Remote area first aid: your field guide

Book review by Dave Rose

The lure of Outback adventures is a tantalising prosect for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts alike. But traversing the vast expanse of Australia’s wilderness can be fraught with pitfalls as well as the pleasures of savouring the thrill of new experiences.

Whether trooping along solely on foot or travelling from behind the steering wheel of a rugged All-terrain vehicle (ATV), it is critical to know what steps to take if misfortune derails the situation.

Dealing with all aspects of traumas that can occur is exactly the intention of this handy, pocket booklet, Remote area first aid: your field guide.

The concise yet expansive manual covers plenty of ground during its 60 pages and has been compiled by a group that certainly knows all about medical and physical emergencies – St John Ambulance Australia.

The matter-of-fact style kicks off with a definition of what constitutes a remote area, where access to medical assistance is impeded by time and distance when organised help can be more than 30 minutes away. Such environments can encompass Outback zones as well as national parks, bushland, deserts and mountain areas. And another unlikely problem spot is picked out as even the top of a crane on an inner-city building site.

The handbook begins with the chapter ‘Managing the remote situation’ after setting out its aim to dissect what is ‘reasonable to expect the first-aider to do in a remote/inaccessible area situation.’

The traveller is envisaged as a patient and we are taken on a comprehensive checklist of components that trigger the Danger, Response, Send for help initiative. Everything from bites and stings, asthma, initiative, bleeding, blisters and burns.

Then the scenario is reversed ‑ what if you, the traveller, are not the victim of an unfortunate and potentially threatening accident but the person who has to react to a medical event? Various occurrences are envisaged, ranging from chest pain to eye injuries and even perhaps seemingly an innocent or innocuous mishap such as fishhook removal.

Physical setbacks such as fractures and dislocations are detailed and what procedure needs to be implemented. Everybody hopes such dramas will never happen to them. But they just might… out of nowhere a case of gastroenteritis could flare. The necessary steps are again mapped out one-by-one about care measures and then what to do.

The mounting perilous possibilities seem to grow more daunting as they are unfurled with the pages being flicked over. But a measure of reassurance arrives with the concluding section running through preparation and safety. The script here does not shy away from inherent snags surrounding such genres as abseiling, caving, climbing and four-wheel driving. And then it is noted that environmental factors come into play – alpine, sandy, rural or tropical regions all have their respective demands.

The secret seems to be to think one step ahead as pre-trip must-dos are run through. The great outdoors should be fun not frightening – but just don’t be frivolous. Recording what happens can also assist with future outings so an Incident Report and Observation Chart finish off the reading proceedings.

Such an unobtrusive, yet valid ‘go-to’ digest seems a must for those embarking on even a minor trek into unchartered territory. The St John Ambulance guide is available from the organisation’s website for around the $15 mark.

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