How does one determine if they need a First Aid kit or not?
For most people, they ask themselves that ultimate burning question, “do I need a first aid kit?”. A kit is a highly recommended “nice-to-have” purchase. It is something we don’t think about until we absolutely need them, If you have children around the house, you travel a lot, or you enjoy the outdoors, definitely consider having one nearby! But these kits are not only helpful when it comes to minor cuts and burns, they may actually help save a life.
Help Save A Life
On 24 December 2022, there was an explosion in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality in Gauteng, South Africa. A fuel tanker carrying liquefied petroleum gas exploded underneath a railway bridge, with a death toll of 41 people as of 18 January 2023.
This recent incident in Boksburg serves as a powerful reminder of the devastating consequences that can result from not taking these dangers seriously. At any given time, a truck carrying highly flammable, highly explosive products like propane, butane, or other liquid petroleum gases is involved in a collision it can be incredibly dangerous and can easily cause a fire or even an explosion.
Members of the community approached the collision to watch and film the accident when a fire broke out, and eventually raged out of control developing into a BLEVE (Boiling Liquid Expanding Vapour Explosion). Those spectators unfortunately did not evacuate the area in the short time they had. The pressure wave and heat generated by the explosion caused severe burns, injuries, and death.
From this illustration, and according to the Emergency Response Guidebook, the following can be seen:
- The Blast (Fireball) radius, circled in red, is approximately 77m
- The EMS distance – the closest that Emergency Services should be from the scene is approximately 306m
- The minimum evacuation distance, circled in green, is the area that should be evacuated, for safety
- The ideal area that should be evacuated is about twice that – the area outside the green circle
- The Thambo Memorial Hospital (Pin 1) is within the EMNS distance, and very close to the blast area
- The Boksburg Police Station (Pin 2) is only 560m away – well within the minimum evacuation zone
- The Boksburg Fire Department (Pin 3) is only 790m away – well within the minimum evacuation zone
- The Ekurhuileni Metro Police Office (Pin 4) is only 970m away – also well within the minimum evacuation zone
- Even the Ekurhuleni Municipal Buildings (Pin 5) is only 930m away – well within the minimum evacuation zone
People exposed to the BLEVE explosion at close range (within the inner red circle) are likely to have suffered from a range of injuries depending on their proximity to the explosion, their protective measures, and the nature of the explosion. The following are some of the likely mechanisms of injury and causes of death for people exposed to a BLEVE explosion at close range:
- Burns: The intense heat and flame generated by a BLEVE explosion can cause severe burns to the skin and internal organs. These burns can range from first-degree burns to third-degree burns and can be fatal if they cover a large percentage of the body or involve the face, airway, or vital organs.
- Blast trauma: The pressure wave generated by a BLEVE explosion can cause a range of traumatic injuries, such as blunt trauma, lacerations, fractures, and dislocations. These injuries can occur as a result of being thrown by the blast wave, being struck by debris, or being crushed by collapsing structures.
- Asphyxiation: A BLEVE explosion can release toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide, which can cause asphyxiation and suffocation. These gases can displace the oxygen in the air, making it difficult for people to breathe, and can cause brain damage or death if exposure is prolonged.
- Projectile injury: The blast can create projectiles like broken pieces of the container, equipment or debris that can fly at high speed and cause serious injuries such as lacerations, fractures, or penetrative injuries.
- Cardiac Arrest: The intense psychological and physical trauma caused by a BLEVE explosion can trigger cardiac arrest in certain individuals.
- Dismemberment: The shockwave of a BLEVE incident is so severe that anyone within the immediate blast radius (less than 77m) might be dismembered. In the Boksburg case, this was graphically illustrated when a hand was found in a nearby tree, days later.
It’s crucial to note that these are just some of the possible mechanisms of injury and cause of death and there can be a wide range of injuries depending on the specific circumstances of the BLEVE incident. The best way to avoid these injuries is to stay away from the pressurized containers and not approach or film the scene of an accident involving these containers.
An Apocalyptic Nightmare
An account from an EMS responder simply described the scene as an apocalyptic nightmare. ” It has left me numb and broken inside”, said JP. “For the first time in my career, I almost emptied all my disposables, no bandages, Burnshield or IV fluid was left, and we carry a lot! The sheer amount of burns and trauma and severely injured patients was overwhelming. So many people walking up to you with skin literally dripping off their bodies, so many dead, so many body parts. It was horrific.”
Among the many organisations and individuals who we came into contact with to the help the blast victims, retired head reservist in the South African Police Service, Captain Colin Morris approached Burnshield and together we have donated Burnshield products to the victims, EMS and hospitals in desperate need of burn treatment. Helpers on the ground have connected with us and given updates on some of the victims, “We went around some of the injured today, and looked at wounds, did what we had to, some are down, some are good, others becoming positive. Thank you to the team, to the ones who organise, blessings to all.”
It’s almost 2 months after the blast yet some of the burn victims still have a very long road ahead. “We have checked up on 9 burn victims, some of the burns are clearing up nicely, others are taking a little more attention, we have an awesome team, thank you everyone! On the counselling side, many are having counselling and speaking to counsellors, grief, pain, suffering, loss, shock, guilt and all the emotions are now coming out. To all of you it is so important to download, offload no matter what you see, do or say, if you should ever need to just talk, or need a hug, or a shoulder to cry on, please ask… always here, always care.”
The Burning Question
So to answer the burning question of do you need a first aid kit – simply put – YES! Everyone should have a first aid kit. There will be a time in your life when you wish you had a first aid kit close by whether it be for yourself, your loved ones or helping out in an emergency situation.
Some general guidelines for treating people with serious injuries caused by a BLEVE explosion:
- Call for emergency medical assistance immediately. This is the most important step that should be taken as soon as possible.
- Check for responsiveness and pulse, if the person is not responsive, begin CPR if trained.
- Assess the injuries and provide first aid accordingly. The injuries caused by a BLEVE explosion can range from burns to traumatic injuries, so it is important to evaluate the person’s condition and provide appropriate care.
- For traumatic injuries, such as fractures or dislocations, immobilize the affected area to prevent further injury.
- If there is a suspected inhalation injury, quickly move the person to a location with fresh air and monitor their breathing
- Be aware of possible toxic gas or chemical exposure and take appropriate safety measures to protect yourself and the patient.
- If you can smell any chemicals, you are too close to the source and you, and the patient, need to be evacuated as a matter of utmost urgency, even before any fire starts.
It’s crucial to note that these are general guidelines, and the treatment will be based on the specific circumstances and conditions of the patient. Also, it’s important to remember that first aiders should not exceed their level of training and should always follow the protocols provided by local emergency services.
It’s vital to remember that BLEVE explosions are highly dangerous incidents and can cause severe injuries and death. The best way to avoid these injuries is to stay away from the pressurized containers and not approach or film the scene of an accident involving these containers.