Basic First Aid and Street Medics

What's A Street Medic?
Montreal Street Medics homepage

Large protests are usually accompanied by large battalions of police, who in the worst cases, injure protesters who are involved in their democratic right to freedom of speech and assembly. Other factors that contribute to the danger of a protest include the huge number of people involved, and widespread panic resulting from the police tactics of violence, intimidation and repression. Street Medics are there to respond to the needs of the victims of these tragedies. In the face of a lack of adequate emergency services street medics do their best to provide a substitute for services such as emergency transport, first aid and support.

Street Medic and Activist Action Preparation
by The Black Cross Health Collective

Use Your Head

  • PLAN AHEAD: For essential needs, care and supplies. Know what to expect. Know how to get assistance. Plan for how to re-contact your buddies if separated.

  • ATTITUDE: You are powerful. You can easily withstand most of what the police throw at you, and you are fighting for justice. Remember, pain is only temporary and we are extremely strong.

  • THE #1 WEAPON OF THE POLICE IS FEAR: Once you control that, pepper spray and other police tactics are easily manageable.

  • COMMON SENSE: Keep your wits, assess what is going down and what needs to be done.

  • BE CALM and FOCUSED when things get most intense. React to danger or warning signs sooner, not later. Watch for signs of physical and mental problems in yourself and others. Cool down others who exhibit panic behavior.

  • BEWARE OF RUMORS: They are usually false, and foster fear. Deal with the known truth.

  • DOCUMENT police actions, brutality, and injuries.

(Note: the above section was written by the A16 Medical team.)

What To Wear

  • Comfortable, protective shoes that you can run in

  • Clothing covering all your skin to protect from sun and pepper spray exposure.

  • Shatter-resistant eye protection (i.e. sunglasses, swim goggles, or gas mask)

  • Bandana to cover nose and mouth soaked in water or vinegar, it can aid in breathing during chemical exposure

  • Weather-related gear (i.e. rain gear, sun hat, winter clothing)

  • Heavy-duty gloves if you plan to handle hot tear gas canisters

  • Fresh clothes in plastic bag (in case yours get contaminated by chemical weapons)

  • A cap or a hat to protect you from the sun and from chemical weapons

What To Bring

  • Lots of water in a plastic bottle with squirt or spray top, to drink and to wash off your skin or eyes, if needed

  • Energy snacks

  • Identification and/or emergency contact information ONLY if you want to be cited out of jail in the event of arrest

  • Just enough money for pay-phone, food, transportation

  • Watch, paper, pen for accurate documentation of events, police brutality, injuries

  • Water- or alcohol-based sunscreen

  • Inhaler, epipen, insulin or other meds if applicable

  • Several days of prescription medication and doctor's note in case of arrest

  • Menstrual pads, if needed. Avoid using tampons - if you're arrested you may not have a chance to change it (tampons left in more than six hours increase your risk of developing toxic shock syndrome)

Packing Your First Aid Kit

We've organized this list into 2 rough sections- things we believe most people will want to have in a complete kit in the first section and extras in the second section. We like the extras, and various ones of us carry more or less from the second list depending on the specific action (i.e. is it raining or snowing, is it 100 degrees outside), how much room we have in our pack, and finally what we both have experience using and have access to. Things like epipen and several of the herbs in the second section will only be useful if you can not only get them but also use them responsibly.

Finally give some though to your pack- both the pack itself (most of us use shoulder bags as they afford quicker and easier access on the fly) and how it's packed. What do you want on the outside for easy access? what needs to be kept dry? What things do you often or always use together so should be kept together? We all change our packs and how they're packed around a lot before we find the combination that works for us.

The Basics:

  • Water- preferably in a sport- top bottle

  • Non-latex gloves

  • Gauze - we like individually wrapped 4x4's best but clean 4x4 's or smaller are fine too

  • Maalox or other liquid antacid mixed 1:1 with water in a spray or sport-top bottle

  • Band-Aids (S, M, L)

  • Antiseptic wash (like witch hazel or iodine)

  • Paper tape

  • Aspirin- just a few

  • Ibuprofen- also just a bit

  • Arnica (homeopathic)

  • Rescue remedy

  • Pen and paper

  • Watch

  • Emergen-C powder or other re-hydration drink mix

  • Paper bag

  • Sun screen (alcohol based)

  • Mineral (or other) oil and alcohol (only if you fully understand how to use them!)

  • Candy bar

  • Bandana

  • Safety pin or 2

The extras (remember no one carries all of this so pick and choose- they're not listed in the order of importance)

  • Sam splint

  • Ace bandage

  • Cake icing tube (diabetic emergencies)

  • Benadryl

  • Calendula / St. John's Wort / Arnica Topical

  • Sulfur

  • Apis

  • Skull cap lavender tincture 1:1

  • Inhaler

  • Epi-pen

  • Tampons (good for nose bleeds too)

  • Topical antibiotic ointment

  • Space blanket

  • Clean t-shirt sealed in a bag

  • Extra plastic bags

  • Bandage scissors

  • EMT shears

  • Chinese burn salve

  • Tongue depressors (for splinting fingers)

  • Flash light

  • Mole skin

  • Matches

  • Goggles

  • Ice pack

  • CPR face shield

  • Cloth sling

  • Eriogonum cinnamon

  • Yunnan piau

What Not To Do

  • Don't put Vaseline, mineral oil, oil-based sunscreen or moisturizers on skin as they can trap chemicals.

  • Don't wear contact lenses, which can trap irritating chemicals underneath.

  • Don't wear things which can easily be grabbed (i.e. Dangly earrings or other jewelry, ties, loose hair).

  • Don't go to the demo alone, if you can help it - go with an affinity group or some friends who know you well.

  • Don't forget to eat food and DRINK LOTS OF WATER.

Medication in Jail

If you are risking arrest and take medication for any health condition that might pose serious problems were your medication to be interrupted (such as: behavioral disorders, HIV, diabetes, hypertension), you should be aware that you may not have access to proper medication while you are in jail.

A letter from a doctor will help. Three copies of the letter are needed, one for the legal team, one for the medical team (these will be kept completely confidential) and one for you. It should include the following information: your name, diagnosis, that you must have access at all times to your medication, a list of all meds that you require, a statement that you must be allowed to keep meds on your person so that they can be properly administered, and that no substitutions are acceptable. Since your name will be on the document, you may want to hide it on your body as a sort of insurance policy - perhaps you won't need it and then could eat it and participate in jail solidarity tactics, but perhaps you'll be worn out already at the time of arrest and will want to cite out in order to take care of yourself.

Better to cite out than pass out. Your meds will need to be in their original prescription bottle in order for you to keep them, but you also could conceal an emergency supply on your person if you want.

Another option to greater ensure your ability to participate in solidarity is to have the document as described above but with a photo of yourself rather than your name. Your prescription bottle would then need to have your name cut out of the label, while leaving the rest of the label intact.

Please make sure that your affinity group and the legal team is aware of your needs so they can help care and advocate for you.

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