I devote much of my time to teaching people about first aid and survival medicine. But the truth is, the skills I share are only useful if you remember them and the medicine is only helpful if you have access to it.

Unfortunately, in an emergency, the brain tends to go blank and often the medicine isn't accessible. Panic sets in, and the body prepares for fight or flight. This might only last a few seconds, but every second counts when someone is bleeding or burning.

The best way to compensate is to expect the panic and prepare for it. My new book, "Living Ready Pocket Manual: First Aid," goes beyond the basics and explores surviving for hours, even days, if no emergency help is available.

How do you prepare for the unexpected? What can you do to regain your focus and make smart, lifesaving decisions? I propose you prepare in the same way medical doctors prepare, by following these two steps.

1. Memorize basics of first aid.

There are a few basic first-aid procedures and principles that doctors memorize early in their training. The point is to make these lifesaving skills their natural reaction to a medical emergency.

Memorize steps for how to handle a few common problems - learn how to administer CPR, how to help someone who's choking and how to treat cuts, burns and broken bones. Much of this is covered in my book, and I've highlighted the important steps you need to memorize. Don't worry; each step is not more than a line or two.

Following these basic procedures will buy you time in an emergency and will help improve the odds of survival if you face a medical situation. Many of the treatments for the most common injuries are not that difficult to perform. Knowing one or two treatments and performing them in an emergency can change an injured person's status from dying to serious but stable.

2. Know where to find trusted info.

After doctors address the most immediate health threats, they can step back, take a deep breath and start thinking of the next steps. You can do the same thing. If my book is handy (i.e. in your pack or first-aid kit), you'll want to consult it to see what to do next.

Doctors consult sources all the time - books, online articles and colleagues. No matter how smart a doctor is, it's impossible to know every detail of what to do in every situation. But a doctor does know the basics, has read about most of the rest and understands where to find the information needed to refresh one's memory. Take this same approach to learning and practicing first aid.

Don't be intimidated by the wealth of information available. Find books, hands-on courses, webinars and websites you can trust. Read, watch, listen and do. You can't possibly memorize all the specifics, but the general knowledge will be in the back of your mind. And you'll know the resources to consult when you need to check the details.


Hubbard is a family doctor who teaches how to survive during disasters or any time you can't get expert medical help at TheSurvivalDoctor.com.