Monday, April 21, 2014

Review - Red Cross First Aid - CPR - AED Training


As shooters, our natural inclination when we think of a first aid emergency on a range is to think GUN SHOT!!! The reality is that gun ranges are very safe. That said – “life” does happen. Everything from a twisted ankle during a movement on the range to heat exhaustion on a hot range day to a heart attack that can strike unexpectedly are much more likely to happen than an extra hole suddenly appearing in a shooter.

So, while the current fad to carry around a Blow Out Kit is certainly a good habit to get into – they will do little to help with a sprained ankle, a person down and sweating profusely after a tough set of drills or the older gent clutching his chest in pain after the last drill. The reality is that both on the range – and in our real life – we could easily be presented with an unexpected medical emergency that has nothing to do with a gunshot wound.

The Red Cross has – for generations – acted as a reliable source of training for their communities. As they do today. I think that at times their training is looked down on as something just for “beginners”. That is true . . . and very far from the truth at the same time. Over the weekend of April 19th I took their training at a nearby Red Cross office. Other students included a fellow who spends his summers working on hiking trails, a yoga instructor, construction worker, auto body worker, massage therapists and a couple others that escape me. I was the only firearms trainer.

The course was the Red Cross First Aid / CPR and AED training. The CPR and AED was the first block, the First Aid the second. For most attending- including myself, it was a refresher with most having taken the training at an earlier date. That said, the course is anything but lite weight.


The above image is linked to the actual training manual. These are provided free online or you can purchase a hard copy for around $9. I carry mine on my phone and tablet for easy reference and referral.

The course began with the CPR/AED (Automatic External Defibrillator).

CPR – unless you have actually performed CPR on a human or had the experience of using one of the training stand-ins, little will prepare you for how much physical energy and commitment it takes to begin and continue CPR. Movie scenes showing one fellow pumping the chest of a dying friend is typically so distorted – they actually do more harm than good leading many folks to believe it’s such a simple process – why the heck take a training course.

Just the process of interlacing your hands, placing them on their chest line and using your entire body to compress the chest a minimum of 2 inches simply can not be explained – it must be physically experienced. And the training mannequins do a great job of showing the amount of effort it takes.

Once the first 30 reps are done, you move to two rescue breaths. Opening the airway, clearing the mouth, watching for signs of breathing – again, it’s more complicated than is shown in the movies.

Finally, when you put it all together and string it out for their short 2-minute training sessions, you begin to get an idea that should you be called on to do this on a friend or family member – it’s going to be much harder work than you expected. And THAT is the value of this portion of the training – to prepare you for just such an event.

The AED – has become a common tool used to help correct an unexpected change in a person’s heart rhythm that is typically during and after a heart attack. There are two most common types of abnormal heart beats are arrhythmias - an irregular or abnormal heartbeat and tachycardia - a rapid, usually regular rhythm. Either of these drastically reduces the efficiency and ability of the heart to pump blood throughout the person’s body.

And AED is a device that automatically performs a number of functions. First – it INSTRUCTS the user on what to do – walking them through step by step. Pads attached to the patients upper right chest and lower left chest begin to assess the person’s heart rhythm and to decide whether a shock is even required. If it is, the AED again warns the person using the machine to stay clear and tells them when to push the button to administer the shock. The process is repeated as necessary with CPR and rescue breaths continuing until help arrives or the rescuer simply physically becomes unable to continue to render aid.

These two skills – CPR and the use of an AED saves an estimated 92,000 people a year according to the American Heart Association. They are certainly worth your time to learn and practice.

The second block was the First Aid block.

Just approaching a person that is injured takes thought. They will probably be injured or in distress. They may well be in pain and scared. Your approach, the words you say need to calm them and help them focus so you can begin to give them “first aid”. And that is where the course begins – how to check the area and the injured person.

From there on – different issues are examined:

Breathing Emergencies – both for adults and child, conscious and unconscious and choking.

Sudden Illness – including an array of specific sudden illnesses as well as poisoning.

Environmental Emergencies – these include heat and cold related emergencies, bites and stings, poisonous plants and lightening.

Soft Tissue Injuries – this includes various types of wounds, burns, controlling bleeding and an assortment of other special situations.

Injuries to Muscles, Bones and Joints – this part covers different types if injuries as well as treatments including anatomic splints, soft splints, rigid splints and slings.

Special Situations and Circumstances – covers everything from child birth to dealing with people who speak a different language.

Asthma – is common enough and can be severe enough to have its own section.

Finally, the use of Auto Injectors provides training to use these devices should the person in need be unable to do so.

Time spent? About 5 hours. Certainly more than worth your time for an introduction to basic first aid.

So, call your local Red Cross – schedule a class and learn the skills that may well save your spouse, child, parent or friend. It’s time well spent!


  1. Those can serve as a good 'refresher' course... :-)

  2. Jim - Yep, I agree - think this is the 3rd time through for me.