First aid - be prepared

by Danny Simms

Lifejackets, flares, radios; fairly common equipment on board your modern and not so modern fishing craft. All very worthy and necessary safety equipment to assist in emergency situations. What about the humble first aid kit? Too often forgotten or at best, sadly neglected.

My ambulance profession has seen me stationed at many southern Australian locales, the last being Port Lincoln, South Australia - a true fishing paradise. Port Lincoln is home to Australia's largest commercial fishing fleet and having more than a passing interest in all things fishing, a lot of my time was spent around the docks. It amazed me how the tuna and prawn fisherman would set out to sea for weeks on end with not even a band-aid on board. Sheer Lunacy!!

Lifejackets etc are very necessary for those real life emergencies, but what about the not so life threatening situations that occur from time to time (normally 40 miles out to sea in the pouring rain) that require some form of medical intervention, Oops, no first aid kit.

Fisherman make 3 mistakes when it comes to first aid kits:

  1. They don't have one.
  2. The one they have is big, bulky and full of equipment they don't know how to use.
  3. It was last seen in 1963, wrapped in an old rug and stowed in the stern locker.

When heading out to sea, or the lakes or shore fishing for that matter, it is not necessary to carry the entire contents of a hospital Accident and Emergency Department with you. A few select items will normally suffice for most situations encountered. What are some of the most common injuries or aliments of the fisherman.

Number 1 would have to be sharp objects, such as hooks and squid jigs embedded in every known body part. Closely followed are cuts of various lengths, breadths and depths caused by the always sharp and never rusty fillet/bait knife. (Tip for all fisherman. Make sure your tetanus booster shots are up to date!!!) Stings and bites from various marine and airborne creatures must also rate fairly highly. Sprains, strains and dislocations occur occasionally and let us not forget motion sickness. What would reasonable, cost effective first aid kids consist of? Considering the main problems encountered whilst fishing, not much is really required. Here is a list that would be effective in most situations. Band aids. Small and large gauze dressing roller bandages, triangular bandages and gauze tape, Sterile saline sachets, or Eye Stream for an eye wash, emergency blanket (the shiny silver ones - like alfoil) These few items can be utilised effectively for the emergency treatment of all the above conditions and more. Band aids - for minor cuts and skin punctures. Gauze dressings to apply pressure on the larger cuts or to pack around embedded objects or for eye pads. Roller and triangular bandages for support of sprains, strains, dislocations , fractures and wrapping over the top of gauze dressings for bleeding control. Sterile saline, or Eye Stream to irrigate the eyes in case of foreign items such as berley, dust etc. Emergency blanket for exposure or extreme cold. Stingose for bites and stings which often occur. A basic knowledge of First Aid is always a wise investment.

First Aid equipment should be stored in a clean water tight container in an easily accessible spot. "Picture this"Your mate has just cut an artery and is losing blood rather quickly - hang on, I'll grab the first aid kit as soon as I move the eski, tackle box, life jackets and rods, untangle the anchor line and find the key to the locker where I think I put it. Stop your whinging - I won't be long - and stop bleeding in the boat will you. I am sure you get the picture. Put it somewhere safe, but accessible. If any supplies are used, replace them immediately -otherwise they will soon be forgotten. Check expiry dates on things like Stingose etc. It is surprising the products that have expiry dates on them. In future editions actual care and various problems will be discussed. If anyone would like further information on either first aid kids or first aid information, please phone me on 019975347.