EMT Training For Preppers

Today we present another article in our non-fiction writing contest – by RickS

I suspect that one of the most neglected aspects of “Prepping” in the broader Prepper community is the acquisition of valuable skills. This is certainly not the case for many of the devoted fans of this blog as evidenced by the “What Did You Do To Prep This Week” feature where we learn of numerous participants who have acquired extensive skills in areas such as growing and preserving food, animal husbandry, radio communications, and many more. However, for many who are interested in prepping it is much easier to purchase “stuff” then it is to learn a new skill. There are likely many preppers who have stored seeds but never planted a garden, acquired an extensive collection of firearms and ammunition but never trained with them, and put together an impressive library of self-sufficiency books but never actually read any of them. They assume they will be able to quickly acquire skills when needed as long as they have the necessary materials. Of course, anyone who has undertaken to learn and refine such skills has realized there is often a very substantial learning curve, a fact that may prove disastrous in a time of crisis if that skill has not been developed beforehand.

This was certainly true in my case in the area of medical preparations. My background is in electrical engineering with absolutely no medical training. I purchased (and actually read) the excellent book “The Survival Medicine Handbook” by Joe and Amy Alton regarding medical care when traditional professional resources are not available and began to acquire medical supplies for use in a crisis situation. After acquiring several IFAK kits for the treatment of trauma (particularly gunshot wounds) I suddenly realized that I had very little idea how to use them.  Although I am in my late 50’s, I considered for the first time acquiring some formal medical training.

After investigating the possibility of studying to become a Paramedic through the local community college I learned that I would need to invest three full-time semesters, a requirement that would be very difficult while continuing to operate my business. I then observed that a pre-requisite to studying to be a Paramedic is certification as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). I discovered that an EMT program is sponsored by the community college through the municipal Public Safety department.

While the time commitment is substantial (fourteen weeks times three evenings per week at four hours per evening plus three Saturdays), it was also feasible for someone with full-time employment (although it helped considerably that my business has been slow: I invested approximately 30 hours per week between in-class and out-of-class preparation). I decided to take the course, culminating in a National Registry Psychomotor exam to verify basic life support skills such as CPR, medical/trauma assessment, bleeding control, and airway management followed by a final certification exam. While this area of study was far outside my “comfort zone” I finally completed my certification as an EMT.

In addition to the manageable time requirements, EMT certification had another very positive advantage: it was very cost effective. The course was only $285; text books added $275, background checks and immunizations/screenings were approximately $200, and the final certification exam cost $70: in short, for a total cost of less than $900 I was able to become certified as an EMT.

When considering studying to become an EMT it is important to understand clearly what it is not. EMT is BLS: Basic Life Support. In fact, EMT training provides very little preparation to solve medical problems. The role of the EMT is to manage life threats and get the patient to doctors and nurses who provide definitive care. Indeed, there are a variety of situations where EMT training, equipment, and techniques are not even adequate to manage life threats; it is necessary to call on Paramedics to provide ALS (Advanced Life Support).

With this limitation in mind it is reasonable to ask “what use is EMT training in a crisis situation where doctors and nurses are not available?” I would like to suggest at least four reasons why EMT training is worth the investment. Note that these thoughts are based on the very valuable insights of other patrons of this blog given to me at the outset as well as my observations.

First, EMT training provides an excellent foundation for more advanced  training. Basic anatomy, obtaining and interpreting vital signs, medical and trauma assessment, and personal protection in a medical environment are just a few of the basics that are emphasized in EMT training. Whether this training is supplemented by instruction in Wilderness EMT, Advanced EMT, Paramedic, or a variety of other areas, EMT training provides the basis for more advanced studies.

Second, EMT training opens the door to working with more advanced medical professionals. The EMT course includes an introduction to Advanced Life Support skills such as endotracheal intubation, intravenous fluid/medication therapy, electrocardiogram application and interpretation. While an EMT is not authorized to employ these skills, assisting a Paramedic will provide the “on-the-job” training necessary to be capable of using these skills in a societal collapse.

Third, volunteering to serve as an EMT with the local fire department or ambulance service will enable the volunteer to know and become known within the local emergency services community including police, fire/rescue, and emergency medical  personnel. This community integration is likely to be very valuable in a crisis.

Finally, volunteering to serve as an EMT in the local community will provide valuable experience in functioning effectively during a medical emergency. EMT training focuses on the ability to rapidly assess a medical crisis and manage life threats when minutes (or even seconds) count. It is one thing to have a theoretical knowledge and another entirely to be able to function decisively in an actual emergency: experience is an essential ingredient in that ability.

EMT certification has proven to be a challenging but attainable goal that has introduced me to an entirely new world of medical evaluation and treatment. While EMT constitutes the lowest rung of “emergency medical professional”, it has proven to be an excellent balance of time/cost versus benefit and opened the door to continuing growth in a variety of ways.

Prizes For This Round Include: (Ends July 29, 2016)

First Prize:

Second Prize: 

Third Prize:

Please read the rules that are listed below BEFORE emailing me your entry… my email address can be found here – please include “writing contest entry” in the subject line.

The more original and helpful your article is, the deeply and less basic it is, the better the chance, that I will publish it, and you will win. Only non-fiction how-to-do-it type articles, please.


  1. Great post. I got a lot of medical training between Scouts and the military (where I was a Navy Corpsman), and I have to say that BLS understanding definitely has its place post collapse.

    Like was said at the beginning of the post, a lot of people don’t acquire skills during the good times. In some cases, that will involve people doing things with sharp tools they’re not really sure how to use. Chainsaws, axes, etc.

    That’s going to lead to accidents. EMT level training can keep those people alive — because even leg injuries can be fatal if cuts hit the femoral artery, for example — until a doctor can be had.

    Good stuff! 😀

  2. Good stuff, as EMT and volunteer fireman I love doing what I do, close to 35 yrs now, the problem I have is I can’t have everything I want in my “go” bag. The emt rating has been broadened in the last few yrs with a lot more skills added which requires equipment.
    One thing to remember is that all situations are at least 95% basic life support and 5% advanced life support so a emt does a lot of good stuff.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      WxNW, with that kind of experience…What are three items you would like to have, but don’t have?
      . Looking for things that will be harder to get,post shtf, these will be very good barter items, especially with those who are qualified to use them…and personal back ups as well.

    • A good traction splint and aed.

  3. PrepperDoc says:

    I agree. Great post.
    If we really had a big collapse, survival will go back to Civil War proportions.
    Infections: knowing a bit about antibiotics, viruses, vaccines would save many lives in your group.
    Wounds that perforate the intestines: if you don’t have really good medical/surgical care available, these are going to die.
    Wounds that perforate muscle: survivable with bleeding control; EMT = survives.
    Wounds that perforate head: if CNS damage, you’re going to die.
    Wounds that perforate lung with modest bleeding: will survive; EMT training to deal with pneumothorax may make the difference.
    Wounds that perforate large vessesl or heart: unsurvivable.
    Strokes — EMT training may allow the 50% that do survive, to do so.

    Infection control — draining abscesses (VERY important!) and appropriate antibiotics will be very important….

  4. Axelsteve says:

    They saved my a$$ twice in my life. I am on meds for seizures now but they got me to the hospital alive.The first time I would have died like Jimmi Hendrix did,choking to death in my own vomit. The second time was a milder seizure but they got me there alive. It would not apply shtf but now they do not get paid squat. i have known 2 people who got certified but could not make it on a emt salary so they do shifts on the weekend.

  5. Good post . Worked 9 years as an EMT . Also was a 91A /91E in the National Guard . Those 9 years seemed like 18 as I averaged 80 hrs a week . Burned out but still have the skill set . Things very from state to state but last I knew a paramedic only needed 6 months more schooling to get a 2 year RN .
    91A= combat medic
    91E=combat dental tech

    • believer says:

      I liked the part of the article where he said he bought the survival medicine hand book and actually read it. I once bought a book on overcoming procrastination but never got around to reading it. I too have purchased the Survival Medicine Handbook and have “skimmed it”. It’s a great book and I do recommend it. Like you I was a 91A, a 91B and a 91C. I did 10 years active duty and picked up EMT licensure during my last year and drove an ambulance for a year after I got out. I picked up my LPN and then my RN. I have to say that EMT is a great place to start but you’ve got to keep going. there are many continuing education classes for nurses that anyone can take. Fees are reasonable sometimes free. Best bet is to find an ER doc or nurse and befriend him or her.

      • believer says:

        I should have added, if I could only have one medical book in my library it would be The Survival Medicine Handbook. As it is I have lots of medical books. Kind of goes with the RN profession.

  6. Rick S, thank you for this article which is excellent & needs to be considered for a prize. Congrat’s on becoming an EMT. A lot of us tend to be generalists in our prepping, & need to develop 1-2 skills. As a pastor, I’m seeking to learn how to provide pastoral care in crisis situations. Am also learning hydroponic gardening.

  7. I am approaching health care from a different perspective. As a botanist, I am studying both native plants and garden plants and their chemical and medicinal properties. I am adding medicinal herbs to my food forest. Not trauma care but general and preventative medicine. I spend 1+ hours a day on this study and am collecting books I haven’t read, including medical textbooks. My degree required general biology classes with the premeds, helps to understand. We all need to take more responsibility for our basic needs.
    Trauma care and EMI and Paramedics are a special area that can save many lives and I admire your willingness to train in that arena.

    • Anonamo Also says:

      preventive care, the use of herbals, essential oils, knowing how to make tinctures and what to give for each problem and being able to provide the remedy will help you to be the “go to gal”. I have been doing the same, started with basic herbals for lung , kidney and stomach disorders…Have continued with wound care. Have nursing background, but been out of the profession, but once you have practiced skillsets for a time, they become ingrained.
      Be sure to get the drawing salve type things, those can be as critical as antibiotics. Knowing what to use for bringing an infection to a “head” and sterilizing the skin and debridement, can be used in the plae of antibiotics for superficial wounds. THis is labour intensive and requires supplies.Having those things can save the life of someone you love or are responsible for.

  8. Georgia Boy says:

    Excellent post, Rivk. Thanks.

  9. I’ve been an EMT for over 20 years and an EMT Instructor for 5, so please take what follows to heart:
    You must understand your state laws regarding this training. Some states will not certify you unless you are a member of an agency who has responsibility to respond to emergencies. In other words, you can’t “free lance” your services. You can take the courses, even take the certification test, but will not receive an EMT or EMR (Emergency Medical Responder – use to be Firs Responder) card until such time as you can provide proof of agency membership.
    So, if your state has this type of restriction, join a volunteer fire department, search and rescue team, or ambulance squad.
    Training is great, but it’s the street smarts that makes you proficient in the craft.

  10. PatrickM says:

    My brother in AK is now retired from the fire dept but was also an active EMT with them, his friend is an ER Dr and they get a few calls a year from other vessels that are aware of their training.

    My DW, SIL, and one niece are RN’s with continued(ing) Ed, I was an Aid Responder at different places of work and have had the basic military aid training courses that we all get when in.

    Our stocks of aid supplies are kept up to date as we are planning to be our neighborhoods “aid station” in a collapse environment. I would like to get more training , DW and I are checking into suturing classes, etc.

  11. Great post, I preach that knowledge weighs nothing.

  12. IdahoBob says:

    I have little real life experience with this issue. However like many others I have tried to improve my knowledge and skills. One dilemma that I can’t seem to fix is the first aid kit. I have four. A small one I carry in my fanny pack with bandaids a few medications and antibiotic cream. A slightly larger one for my backpack with a few more things including coauglant bandages, gauze dressing/pads, etc. Another for the travel trailer with more basic stuff and of course one for the home with lots of basic stuff.
    The problem is simply; what should I have in these kits? I probably couldn’t even come close to treating a gunshot wound or any real trauma with any of these kits. BUT If I get the kit too large it won’t fit in my fanny pack or be practical for backpacking or storing in my trailer. It is all a compromise and I’m sure I’m not compromising effectively.
    You tube videos (some of them by professionals and very smart people) are of little help. They have everything in their kit and it costs $500+. Impractical.
    Can someone put together the contents of a practical first aid kit; both a small one that is convenient to carry and a larger one that would cover more issues? I don’t want it to devolve into the same argument you get when you ask “what’s the best gun?”. What I would hope for is some good core or basic items and then a short list of nice to haves with an explanation or justification for each (as in this item costs $30 but it can do this…). Perhaps as a second part of this a paragraph or two to explain how to use the items that we neophytes would not be familiar with.

    • I purchased an EMT kit from Lightning X Products (Item LXMB35-B) for $200 to carry in my car. This stocked bag is not “first aid” per se although it includes items for use in bleeding control and other common first aid applications, but it also provides a number of the tools we were trained to use in the EMT course including a very serviceable stethoscope and blood pressure cuff, a light for checking pupils, a bag-mask device to assist with ventilation, a set of oropharyngeal airways to maintain an open airway in an unconscious patient, oral glucose to treat hypoglycemia, SAM splints and triangular bandages, an occlusive dressing, a pocket mask, trauma shears, an adjustable cervical collar, a tourniquet and much more. The quality of both the bag and the supplies seems to be entirely adequate.
      I have added some items for my private use: for example, EMTs are not authorized in my area to use a glucometer, so we are left to guess whether someone is intoxicated or suffering from hypo- or hyper-glycemia (among other conditions with a similar presentation). As I have a number of diabetic relatives and as hypoglycemia can become life-threatening in minutes, I want to be able to recognize this condition quickly: a $15 travel glucometer is in my kit.
      Similarly I have added a bottle of chewable baby aspirin that may prove useful if confronted with heart issues. An inexpensive pulse oximeter is added: while pulse oximetry is limited in it’s ability to measure blood oxygenation, it can be useful in recognizing trends and in monitoring a patient’s pulse rate. I have added a supply of gloves and some butterfly bandages as well along with my safety glasses and work gloves. (I am debating whether to add an oxygen bottle to my kit: this is one of the few drugs that EMTs are authorized to use and it is extremely effective for many conditions, but I am not sure I want to carry a metal cylinder with a gas under high pressure around in my car.)
      In short, this relatively inexpensive kit comes equipped with an excellent starting assortment of useful medical supplies and then can be supplemented to expand the capabilities.

  13. Curley Bull says:

    Bob, gather up what you have and seek the advice of a Paramedic or EMT at a local fire department. I happen to personally know one of the Paramedics in a small town just across the line from me and he has helped me much. You’ll have to catch them at a time when they are not really busy. I also have a nephew that been a paramedic for over 20 years, but a ways from here.

  14. Great Story. I got my EMT certification on Guam in 1975 while as a medic in the AF. The knowledge and skills have stayed with me all my life. however I am looking to take the course again because of the many new skills that are taught, and I don’t even know what I forgot. California will certify you and any state that won’t is short sighted and just controlling the number of certified people to keep the salaries up. Typical Union crap. Red Cross 1st aid is only 2 days training, CERT is 3 days. They all help every trained person is an asset.

  15. Patriot Farmer says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the advise for advanced medical training as part of your ability to be prepared. My daughter is going through advanced medical training with the local fire department and I was a First Responder instructor for over 20 years. I used my training to teach countless corrections officer who went on to save lives and I used my training to keep my wife alive until paramedics arrived.

  16. Moira M says:

    Great post! This type of training is on my to do list. (and sooner than later)

  17. IdahoBob says:

    Let me expand my request a little. I know there are ready made kits but they are either too expensive or contain too much. Maybe that’s just a fact that I have to live with and a decent 1st aid kit will indeed contain too much and cost too much. But if that is the case most likely I and others simply won’t buy it or carry it if we did buy it. So what I’m suggesting/asking is that can someone with the knowledge provide either in writing or on youtube a good kit with a good description with the criteria that it be small enough to be practical to carry around and affordable. Something better than my little kit of bandages, gauze and triple anti-biotic but not as exotic as a defibrillator. Something that could be useful for a trauma like a car accident or accidental shooting while hunting. I think there is a crying need for something like this. Most of the 1st aid kits I have looked at either were too simple or too complicated. The classic example is a kit that brags it has 48 components and almost all of them are simple bandaids.

    • Curley Bull says:

      Bob, take what you have to the fire station! Tell them what it is that you think you want. They will tell/show you what to keep, remove, or add to each kit. They will even explain much of it to you as to how/when to use. You may have to make more than one trip. They will also tell you where and when you can take classes.

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