OSD 209: Thinking in bets with your EDC
You all carry, right?
Generally it’s something like “Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.” A gun can save your life in particular circumstances, and who wouldn’t want their life saved. And sure, that’s part of it, but it’s not quite a full explanation. Lots of things can save your life. Antibiotics have saved many more lives than Glocks have, but you don’t tuck a flask of amoxicillin in your waistband when you leave the house.
The items you carry fall into two categories:
Items that will save a life.
Both categories have a tradeoff at the margin, where you weigh the value of the item against the hassle of carrying it. But the value on the positive side of the scale will always be in one of the two categories above. Category 2 is stuff like a pen, a flashlight, your wallet, your phone, a knife for opening boxes, etc. Category 1 is the uncharted one.
For most people who carry a category 1 item at all, their list is one item long: a gun. (That’s if we don’t count a phone, which is statistically the most important life-saving tool you carry. But you’d carry it for category 2 reasons anyway even if it had zero life-saving utility, so we won’t count it in category 1.) The reason boils down to the old chestnut that when seconds count the police are minutes away. Emergencies where you need a gun on you are emergencies where you need a gun on you — it can’t wait.
We can generalize that: a category 1 EDC item is any life-saver where, should the need for it arise, the only way you’ll have it quickly enough for it to make a difference is if it’s on your person. If you can wait for help to arrive with the item, then it’s not in category 1 and you don’t need to carry it.
So, a gun is a category 1 item. What are some others? An non-exhaustive list of items whose immediate presence can determine whether the victim lives long enough for the ambulance to arrive:
Training in CPR and first aid
Your EDC is a bet that the expected value of an item is bigger than the hassle of schlepping it. If you carry a gun, then you’ve taken that bet with the gun. And that’s great. But keep pulling on that thread, and think about the
probability x value of the others. The odds that you’ll need to use a tourniquet are higher than the odds you’ll need to use a gun. The odds that you’ll need to use an AED are higher still. Statistically, the highest EV thing on this list is the one that doesn’t take any effort to carry — first aid training.
A data-driven approach to these category 1 EDC items is to sort them by EV (highest first) and then walk down the list until you reach the limit of things you can comfortably carry. So for people reading this, that probably means carrying: first aid training, a tourniquet, a gun, and then tapping out somewhere around chest seal.
(Side note: in a world where AEDs were dirt cheap, it would be negligent to not have one at home and one in every car. In today’s world where they cost ~$1000, that’s a tougher sell. But you should consider it. How many people wouldn’t bat an eye at spending $1000 on their tenth gun, but haven’t bought one AED yet?)
If you’re carrying a gun without having any first aid training, there’s nothing wrong with that per se — you’ve got one category 1 item with you instead of zero. But it does suggest you have an opportunity to make your full EDC toolkit more effective.
This week’s links
Stephen Gutowski interviews Ian McCollum
Ian talks about his experience with YouTube’s content moderation.
Paul Perkerson and John Lovell recount an emergency where a Warrior Poet Society training student needed an AED during a rifle class
The student suffered a cardiac arrest during the class. He only survived because a fellow student happened to be someone who never goes anywhere (apparently even while traveling interstate in a rental car for rifle training) without an AED.
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Our range has an AED (maintained as part of our contract with Cintas, who also stocks the first aid kit on site). We have also hosted CPR training on site before (primarily for our instructors/RSOs, but then opened up to the membership).
Now that I think of it, I am surprised there are no automobile manufacturers offering an addon package that installs an AED in your vehicle. Would I drop a grand on an AED independently? Probably not. Would I drop that much on an enhanced safety package the next time I buy a vehicle? Very possibly.
And that's why I carry an IFAK on my ankle with a CAT7, Israeli bandage, hemostasic gauze, chest seals, and nitrile gloves. I've allowed myself to be convinced of the notion that, if you carry a device that can inflict mortal wounds, you should also carry items that will enable you to treat such wounds. Besides, I drive a lot for my work and MV collisions are far more likely (based on personal observation, rather than just statistical likelihood) than a self-defense scenario. Which is why I keep a larger IFAK in the car as well. The nice thing about AEDs is that most publicly accessible buildings have them, and they take very little training to operate.