Emergency Action Plan Essentials: What’s In Your Emergency Kit?

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s (NATA) position statement on emergency action planning dating back to 2002 calls for development of emergency action plans by all organizations and institutions that sponsor athletic activities.1  Seventeen years later, Scarneo, et. al. found that although most secondary schools had emergency action plans (EAP), they often lacked fundamental components and failed to meet the guidelines established by the NATA position statement.2 An area of particular concern identified by Sports Medicine Concepts during administration of its In 2Min or Less! Sports emergency care programming is the planning for appropriate emergency response equipment.  Having the appropriate emergency response equipment on-hand is an essential component of any best practice emergency action plan, yet most participants report that they do not have appropriate basic life-support equipment readily available when EMS is not on-site. Athletic trainers often attribute poor emergency preparedness to lack of time, financial resources, and/or lack of institutional support.3 Although it can be challenging to get all necessary personnel to buy-in to a best practice EAP program, these challenges must be met without fail because an effective EAP is a duty created by best practice standards.  This issue of the SEC Digest looks specifically at affordable emergency response equipment that will help athletic trainers provide a high level of pre-hospital care prior to the arrival of EMS.

All too often athletic trainers show up to an event at the last minute carrying only a hastily thrown together kit and, maybe, an AED.  Tape, band-aids, and an AED are a far cry from what an athletic trainer needs to comply with current best practice standards. Choosing to rely on the EMS system to provide basic life-support (BLS) is a dangerous game that unnecessarily leaves athletes exposed to catastrophic outcomes should EMS be delayed or not have specialized equipment required to manage athletic emergencies.  Fortunately, a properly stocked sideline emergency kit that can provide athletic trainers with all the equipment necessary to provide a very high level of care prior to the arrival of EMS does not have to be hard to assemble or expensive. Sports Medicine Concepts provides its SMC Red Kit as a convenient option for purchasing a ready-to-go sideline emergency kit.  Medical personnel operating on a tighter budget may use the SMC Red Kit contents list to acquire and assemble their own sideline emergency kits.  Either way, medical personnel should include a dedicated BLS sideline emergency kit and a routine maintenance program in their EAP.

Appropriate BLS emergency equipment that should be standard on every athletic trainer’s sideline Includes:

  1. BLS Emergency Kit
    • Trauma shears, 3 pack and fill towels, HR/BP monitor, pulse oximeter, glucose monitor with lancets and testing strips, valved holding chamber, non-rebreather mask, cervical collar, bite stick, suction pump, OPA kit, NPA kit, bag valve mask, SMC’s Enhanced Vital Signs Trending Assessment Tool (EVAT)FMXtractor, power screwdriver, head/neck immobilizer, bleeding / wound care supplies, 1st and 2nd dose epinephrine auto injector (optional), glucose tablets, glucose gel, glucagon pen (optional), shock blanket, ice bags
  2. AED with AED ready supplies
    • Gloves, safety razor, alcohol prep pads, and absorbent towel.
  3. Splints / Immobilizers
    • Ankle, leg, thigh, and arm vacuum immobilizers, knee immobilizer, shoulder sling immobilizer, SAM splints.

Keep emergency supplies in a standard location that is separate from your other supplies so that there is never any confusion as to its location when it is needed.  A regular maintenance routine for your emergency equipment should include checking the readiness status of all equipment and medications, including expiration dates.  A good general approach might be to plan to recheck all emergency equipment and supplies prior to the start of each new season and after each use. An additional status check is warranted after exposure to extreme weather to ensure cold, heat, and moisture have not impacted the integrity of supplies and medications.  Consider sealing emergency equipment with a tag to keep others from accidentally accessing the supplies and to indicate that all equipment remains in a ready state.

Ironically, the supplies that require the most attention and planning for are those that athletic trainers will use the least.  Therefore, it is vital to maintain critical care skills through annual practice and rehearsal. Again, a good approach might be to practice with all emergency equipment prior to the start of each new season.

Life-threatening injuries in athletics are thankfully rare, but they do happen.  Being prepared for life-threatening injuries significantly reduces the likelihood of a poor outcome.  Statistically, the more likely scenario that threatens the well-being of an athlete is an ill-prepared medical team allowing a non-life-threatening injury to turn more serious.  Don’t be a member of that team!