What to Include in Your Jump Bag
Firefighters and EMS personnel are usually the first responders in an emergency situation. In the event that an ambulance does not arrive right away, jump bags are essential for holding equipment and supplies necessary to help you make quick assessments of the patient and treat them accordingly. We’ve compiled a list of crucial items to include in your jump bag. Take a look below.
Items to Keep in Your Bag for Emergencies
- Blood Pressure Cuff
A blood pressure cuff provides critical information to emergency personnel when they arrive which helps them quickly assess the situation and take action. Consider having an adult-sized cuff as well as a pediatric-sized cuff. You’ll want to know what the numbers mean and the right actions to take based on the readings.
A stethoscope works hand-in-hand with the blood pressure cuff. You’ll use it to listen for a pulse as well as listen to the sounds of the patient’s lungs. This instrument is especially important if the patient is having difficulty breathing, as it helps determine heart rate. Stethoscopes are not all created equal, and investing in a good, high-quality stethoscope like this one from Mabis Littman is a wise decision. It features a patented, single-sided diaphragm which allows you to “hear both low and high frequencies without turning over the chest piece.”
- Trauma Supplies
As a first responder, it’s vital that you have trauma supplies in your bag. This includes items like compression bandages, adhesive bandages, cold packs, and cling wrap. Trauma shears are a must-have, as they can cut almost anything, including clothing, jackets, and belts, allowing you to get to a wound or relieve pressure. Gauze bandages have a variety of uses including applying direct pressure to a wound to help stop bleeding. Triangle bandages are great for creating slings or swathes.
Sterile gloves provide critical protection for both you and the patient. These take up little room in your bag and are of utmost importance, so be sure to pack extras. Often times you’ll need to go through several pair or share with a fellow police officer, firefighter, or EMT.
- Oxygen and Airway Equipment
Chances are you’ll run across a patient who is having respiratory and breathing issues, so you’ll want to have tools to help the patient breathe. Items to consider packing include an oxygen tank with key and a non-rebreather mask (NRB) which delivers a high concentration of oxygen to the patient. This is helpful for patients who are able to breathe unassisted and are possibly suffering from smoke inhalation or carbon monoxide poisoning.
Nasal cannulas help provide oxygen without having to wear a mask. This is important if the patient suffers from an injury to their mouth or has a condition like claustrophobia which makes wearing a mask uncomfortable. You’ll also want a bag valve mask (BVM) which delivers oxygen to the patient’s lungs when they can’t breathe.
If you encounter a diabetic patient, you’ll want a glucometer so that you can determine if they are having an episode related to low or high blood sugar. This tool can be invaluable for providing crucial information to first responders and hospital personnel.
- Emergency Blankets
The simplest tool can often do the most good. Mylar blankets help reduce a patient’s heat loss due to loss of blood or evaporation of perspiration. They are vital in helping prevent or counter hypothermia, and are also used to provide shade for a patient if they are in a hot environment with the sun beating down on them.
- Notepad and Pen
Once again, a simple tool can be so important in an emergency situation. By having a pen and paper on hand, you’ll be able to write down the patient’s vitals and other personal information that is important for first responders or hospital personnel to know. Write the information down as you receive it, as in a hectic situation, you can’t rely on yourself to go off memory.
Another great reason to have pen and paper in your jump bag is so you can communicate with patients who are alert but nonverbal for some reason (i.e. deaf, autistic, etc.). Communication between you and the patient is so critical to providing the help needed, and if the patient is unable to communicate verbally, having something to write down their words is essential. Make sure you have a package of pens, not just one, as we all know pens have a tendency to disappear.
- Flashlight and Extra Batteries
You never know when you’ll find yourself in a dark spot, unable to see well. Perhaps it’s nighttime and you’re helping someone on the side of the road, or the power is out and you need extra light to help look for a patient or to see what you’re doing when assessing the patient. Invest in a high-quality flashlight like this one from Streamlight which is heavy duty and features three modes including a high-powered beam as well as a strobe light setting. Make sure you pack extra batteries, as the last thing you need is a flashlight that’s dead.
- Miscellaneous Items
Other items you may want to consider adding to your jump bag include:
- Storm whistle – A storm whistle features a high decibel rating which allows it to be heard at great distances, perfect for calling attention to yourself so emergency personnel can locate you.
- Wire cutters – A small pair of wire cutters fits easily in your jump bag and may come in handy should you need to get through a fence or other obstruction to reach a patient.
- Door wedge – Another small item that won’t take up too much space in your jump bag and can come in handy, a door wedge allows you to keep a door open should you need to move a patient by yourself.
Personal Care Items to Keep Yourself in Top Form
Days are long and hard. Sometimes you have back-to-back-to-back, etc. calls and there’s no time for a small break, no less lunch or dinner. In order to be at your absolute best and able to administer the level of excellent aid to patients that you need to, you must ensure you’re well hydrated and fueled.
- Bottled Water
You’re not always in a situation where clean water is available. That’s why it’s critical to have extra bottled water in your engine, ambulance or car. Not only might you need it when administering care to patients, you’ll also want to make sure you stay good and hydrated so you can operate at your best. Pack enough to last you a few days.
- Clean Clothes
You may be on a run that lasts all day, with no time to go back to home base and change clothes, so it’s wise to have an extra uniform on hand in case your first one gets soiled. Extra socks and underwear are a must, including warm socks in winter.
You’ll also want to pack hand warmers for the winter to help ensure your hands remain warm and functional. They’re small and inexpensive, so pack extra in case your colleagues forget theirs.
- Healthy Snacks
If you’re a firefighter or EMT, chances are you won’t have time to sit down for a nice lunch or dinner, so you’re going to need snacks to help keep you fueled for your busy day, especially if you’re out on calls for long periods at a time. It’s tempting to grab a candy bar, snack cakes, chips, or something else easy, but they lack any kind of real nutritional value and contain loads of sugar which contributes to weight gain.
Instead, stock up on healthy snacks like protein bars that are low in sugar, nuts including almonds and walnuts, and beef jerky. These snacks are high in protein, will keep you full, and provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best.
- Neck Pillow
If you’re an EMT and have to spend long hours in your ambulance, waiting on calls, a good neck pillow is essential to helping you get good rest in between calls.
- Travel Toiletries
You know that this job can be unglamorous, with long, exhausting hours out on the road taking and waiting on calls. Unless you use industrial strength deodorant and toothpaste, chances are you’ll get to feeling not so fresh, and no one wants that. Pack a toothbrush and travel size toothpaste, deodorant, and hand sanitizer. You’ll feel refreshed and ready for the rest of your day.
- Pain Meds for You
The stress of the job, along with poor nutrition, possible dehydration, and miscellaneous fumes, odors, and smells can cause significant headaches. The physicality of the job also means muscle aches, joint pain, and bruises, so you want to make sure you have pain medication for yourself like Advil and Aleve. Many of us also suffer from allergies, and don’t forget sinus infections and random colds, so it’s essential to have non-drowsy cold and allergy relief on hand so you can still perform your job to the best of your ability.
While you may be tempted to fill your jump bag with everything from this list or that you can find in an ambulance, your bag simply cannot hold all of those items. Take a minute and think about the situations that you most often find yourself in and what items you need in those situations. Pack the items essential to making quick assessments that provide the best care as you wait for other emergency personnel to arrive.