Preparing for a Medical Emergency on the Road
Remember the saying, "The best defense is a good offense?" One of the best decisions you can make as a frequent traveler is to be prepared for a medical emergency on the road. Being properly prepared can help you quickly and efficiently assist a person in need - that person could be someone you love.
The first step in this process is to get certified in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR). Whether you're young, old, traveling alone or with companions, you can benefit from learning CPR. CPR can double a person's chance of recovery from cardiac arrest. The training also teaches you how to alleviate choking dangers with the Heimlich maneuver. Courses are offered at most colleges, hospitals and American Red Cross offices. Some RV rallies even provide training at a discounted rate.
Your second preparation tool is a well-stocked first-aid kit. Don't just take supplies out of your medicine cabinet to create a kit. Consider buying a kit that's already put together to ensure you don't forget anything. Be sure to add the extra items for your specific needs like extra medication, dietary requirements or pet supplies. Note that many items in the kit have expiration dates and will need to be kept current.
Carry a medical guide with you or, at the very least, be prepared to recognize the symptoms of major life-threatening afflictions that can strike suddenly. The American Heart Association has summarized a list of the most common ones:
- Heart attack symptoms
Chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body, shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
- Stroke warning signs
Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble speaking; sudden trouble seeing with one eye or both; sudden trouble walking; dizziness; loss of balance or coordination or sudden severe headache with no known cause.
- Cardiac arrest symptoms
Sudden loss of responsiveness with no response to gentle shaking, no normal breathing for several seconds, no signs of circulation and no movement or coughing.
Helping Others Help You
If you're traveling, it's particularly important to prepare paperwork for each traveler that documents medications, conditions and allergies.
EMTs are hesitant to look in your wallet or purse for medical information until they reach the emergency room and a witness can watch them do it, so you may want to wear a medical alert bracelet or necklace. If you have too many items to fit on the small face of the jewelry, you can now sign up for a service that assigns a code to you that is printed on the jewelry. When the EMT calls into the hospital, your code is used to access your medical information from a nationwide network.
Communication is the Key
With all the people on the road today, there are many communications options to help you find the assistance you need in a medical emergency.
Many states have posted road signs that signify the location of hospitals or aid stations. Keep an eye out for these as you're traveling; you never know when it will become useful information. While they can be noisy and distracting, CB radios can help keep you informed of things happening down the road. They can be a life-saving tool to communicate with others in an emergency.
Cell phones are most people's preferred mode of communication while traveling. They're easy to carry, and nowadays service is available in most areas. Remember to keep your phone charged at all times. If you don't want the expense of keeping a cell phone service operating, you can keep one without service that should still work in an emergency as long as you're in an area with cellular service. According to a decree by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), all cell phones, even ones without an active service plan, must be able to dial 9-1-1.
If You're Not the Primary Driver
If you've never before driven the RV, you should at least learn the basics. You don't want to drive it for the first time in an emergency. When traveling by RV, it's possible that in an emergency you will find yourself far from medical assistance. If the primary driver is hurt, you may be in a situation where you need to drive to get help.
If you're the passenger and the driver of your vehicle loses consciousness, try not to panic. The first thing to do is move the driver's hands and feet away from the steering wheel and pedals. Next, climb over, sit on the edge of the driver's seat and take control of the vehicle. Slow it down and move to the side of the road. To keep use of the power steering and brakes, don't turn the engine off until the vehicle has completely stopped. You must control and stop the vehicle before tending to the driver.
RVs have vast differences in how they drive, so you should practice driving the vehicle in which you'll spend most of your time. It's important to learn the basics of accelerating, turning and stopping. If possible, take one of the driving courses offered at many RV rallies year-round.
When staying at campgrounds it's important to take advantage of the map provided on check-in - it contains valuable information you'll need in an emergency, including the campground street address and a map to your campsite. If you need to call 9-1-1, you have to be able to give the operator a physical address for them to dispatch help to you. It's also very important to be able to give them directions to find you within the campground. Keep the map with your cell phone so it will be easily accessible if you need it. If you don't use a cell phone, keep the map in the same place each time you stop for the night and don't forget to throw out the old one so you don't get them mixed up.
When you're in areas that have severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornados or blizzards, be sure to note what county you are currently camped in. Radio weather bulletins are announced by county. Also, if weather danger is nearby, listen to the radio to find out where the safe building is so you can get there quickly if the need arises.
Having a Backup Team
Anything can happen down the road - preparation will help you to remain calm and focus on the emergency. Many insurance providers now offer emergency expense coverage that bridges the gap of additional expenses RV owners might incur that are not covered by conventional medical insurance.
It's important to be familiar with what your medical insurance will and will not cover. The beauty of traveling by RV is you feel free to visit parts of the country that are more remote and far from civilization. However, if an emergency occurs, an airlift to the nearest hospital can cost more than $10,000, which most medical insurance plans will not cover, and services typically require payment up front. Supplemental emergency medical plans can cover this and also extras like:
- Return of your vehicle home for you if you are not able to do it yourself.
- Return of your dependents and pets home.
- Coverage of meals and accommodations for your traveling companion if you're hospitalized.
- Transport of a family member or loved one to be with you if you're hospitalized.
- Transportation home for you if your medical condition requires you be sent home to recuperate or receive further treatment.
- Return of your vehicle home for you if you are not able to do it yourself.
Disclaimer: The information in this article was obtained from various sources. This content is offered for educational purposes only and does not represent contractual agreements, nor is it intended to replace manuals or instructions provided by the manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional. The definitions, terms and coverage in a given policy may be different than those suggested here and such policy will be governed by the language contained therein. No warranty or appropriateness for a specific purpose is expressed or implied.