For a Real First Aid Kit to be of any value, it has to be there when you need it. Which means, it needs to be small enough to travel in your car, on trips, family outings, etc., but big enough to carry the medical supplies that will save lives.

I am going to give my top ten items from two perspectives. One as a first aid instructor who trains others to save lives. The other perspective from the firefighter/ EMT responding to thousands of medical emergencies, I have discovered what supplies matter. So if you have limited choices and want to create a life saving kit, here is my short list.

1. CPR mouth barrier- with this device we are handling the two most important issues in first aid. The number one issue is rescuer safety and the number two issue is breathing for the victim. You need air to survive. So I recommend the only barrier mask that comes with a double one-way for your maximum protection and is made in America. Be careful when shopping, most barriers are made in China, and imported as a novelty item with only an inferior paper filter as your protection.

2. Trauma dressings- severe bleeding must be controlled immediately. Most kits do not have adequate size or quantity to stop real bleeding. So pack at least three 5×9 sterile trauma dressings. These can be also be used for burns and padding for splinting.

3. Thermal blanket- these are great for treating shock victims because they reflect the heat the body right back to the victim, minimizing heat loss. Very compact and provide waterproof protection for the victim.

4. More dressings and roller gauze- The heart of your kit are the dressings. There is no point in packing anything smaller than a 4×4 gauze pad. If you have a small wound, just fold over the dressing for some real thickness. Of course, add some roll gauze 2-3 inches in width to hold your dressings in place once the bleeding has been controlled.

5. Triangular dressing- a very versatile bandage that can be used to create a pressure bandage, secure splints and a arm sling.

6. Burn gel dressing- burns are painful, at risk for infection and can lead to shock. How you treat them is critical. These sterile non-stick dressings will cool faster than water, smother the nerve endings with cool gel so pain is gone and reduce infections.

7. Sterile water- for flushing wounds, eye injuries, cooling small burns and rehydrating heat exhaustion.

8. Cardboard splint- at least a 12 inch splint will manage wrist, arm and ankle fractures when stabilization is key.

9. Ice pack- the wonder drug. Great for reducing swelling on sprains and strains, fractures and cooling the body from heat exhaustion.

10. Paramedic scissors- you want good heavy-duty scissors that will cut through clothing, shoes and almost anything else without cutting the victim.

These are my top ten items you will need to make your own real first aid kit. Of course, you can and should include tweezers, antiseptic wipes, antimicrobial wipes, band-aids and vinyl gloves. Once you have the top ten, feel free to add your favorite items.

Wayne Bennett is a recently retired twenty seven year veteran fire captain and owner of Disaster Survival Skills, LLC. He specializes in Disaster Response, CPR/First Aid training and Earthquake Supplies for Schools and businesses.Check out his real first aid kit at





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