Range Must-Haves: Selling First Aid

Every customer who walks in your store, from the law enforcement officer to the casual shooter, needs a first-aid kit. What are you stocking?

Range Must-Haves: Selling First Aid

The Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) is one of the hottest-selling accessories not only for the prepper crowds, but for any related sporting, tactical, hunting, outdoor and hiking customers. The IFAK (Individual First Aid Kits) concept led by the military is now considered by many to be a must-have kit for EDC carry, vehicles and homes. There is a huge span of opinions on IFAK contents in the consumer market. Dealers need to help customers work through the confusion of what IFAKs are, what should be included to meet their individual needs, and where they should be stored and carried.

For background, I am Red Cross First Responder-trained and also Level 1 (Awareness- First Responder) trained in nuclear and biohazard and have tactical first-aid field training. I also have some hands-on Israeli tactical field training with their bandage system and am a huge fan of the Israeli bandage system after using one personally as a sling/bandage for a bone break.


IFAK History

Personal first aid kits have been around since WWI, but historically, they have been little more than band-aid and gauze kits for minor scrapes and injuries, even with the addition of antibiotic sulfa powder carried during WWII. In the 1990s, the IFAK concept changed radically based on battle wound data. The data indicated that on-site stop of blood loss, immediate treatment of major life-threatening wounds and complicating injuries provided the time required to extract and treat those victims. In short, IFAKs deliver a self-treatment option to buy the victim enough time to get real medical life-saving assistance. The result was that battlefield mortality decreased exponentially with the fielding of the new IFAK kits in 2003 with the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The first IFAK - Individual First Aid Kit included:

●      1 tourniquet

●      1 elastic bandage kit (this is similar to a field dressing)

●      1 bandage GA4-1/2” 100’s

●      1 surgical adhesive tape - for sucking chest wounds

●      1 nasopharyngeal airway kit

●      4 surgical gloves

●      1 combat gauze dressing

The IFAK concept has morphed over the last 20 years, with many different experts having different opinions and many IFAKs becoming mission-dependent based on the expected injuries. Even the U.S. military has modified contents. If, for instance, someone has life-threatening allergies or is diabetic, having treatment for those conditions in a kit may be more of an issue than chest wounds in a civilian environment.

In other situations, many people might note a single multi-use medical item like an Israeli bandage may be enough for a walk around the block — thus the reason so many people now have divergent opinions on what should be in a civilian IFAK. The general goal of an IFAK is a very small-format medical kit optimized for self-application that can be used by a victim to stop bleeding or address other potential life-threatening issues. Generally, most people agree a standard IFAK should include the above-fielded 2003 IFAK contents, but others want more comprehensive or minimal kits.

For more comprehensive needs, usually stowed in the household or vehicle, extra IFAK supplies allow treatment of multiple victims and/or non-life threatening wounds during a time when medical help is not available or it would be unsafe to seek that assistance. Treatment for most non-life threatening injuries can be done correctly and safely at home with training. Saline eye wash/flush kits are indefensible, and I have used these kits several times. Though I do not recommend it, I closed a fairly serious 4-inch half-inch-deep wound at home on my arm caused by a dirty slipped tool. I was able to pull my expanded home IFAK kit, stop the bleeding, flush the wound with saline, treat it with curechrome, and close the wound with Dermabond and simple surgical tape, all without assistance, and I did not have a scar or infection issues. A few weeks later, my doctor checked the wound and noted that the hospital could not have done better. Expanded IFAK kits offer customers options for self-care.


Sample IFAK Kit Types

Below are guidelines for IFAKs, building from a bare minimum kit all the way to something more comprehensive.

Bare Minimum

●      1 Israeli bandage - Versatile pressure bandage


Basic EDC IFAK Kits

●      1 tourniquet

●      1 Israeli bandage - Versatile pressure bandage


Gen 1 IFAK Kits 2003 U.S. Military Issue

●      1 tourniquet

●      1 Israeli bandage

●      1 bandage GA4-1/2” 100’s

●      1 surgical adhesive tape - for sucking chest wounds

●      1 nasopharyngeal airway kit (+ usually lubricant)

●      4 surgical gloves

●      1 combat gauze dressing

●      Recommended adding a CPR shield and mini tube of super glue


Gen 2 IFAK Kits Current U.S. Military Issue

●      1 tourniquet, combat application (C.A.T.)

●      1 bandage kit, 4 ½-inch elastic/compression, vacuum packed/sterile (Israeli bandage)

●      1 bandage gauze, roller, Sterile

●      2 one-way valve chest wound seal, entrance/exit seals

●      1 mini Sharpie for marking wound areas and time/date of tourniquet application

●      1 eye shield

●      1 combat medic reinforcement tape

●      1 airway, nasopharyngeal, 28fr, 12s, sterile

●      2 pair, glove, patient exam (4 ea)

●      1 tactical combat casualty card

●      1 strap cutter

●      Recommended adding a CPR shield and mini tube of super glue


Additional Supplemental Medical

●      IFAK refill components for multiple victims

●      Bottles of saline - wound wash

●      Saline eye wash

●      Wound closure strips - “polySutures”

●      Iodine and/or CureChrome

●      Roll-up splint

●      Sprain compression wrap

●      CPR shield

●      Mini tube(s) of Dermabond or super glue

●      Burn patches and cream

●      Hydrogen peroxide

●      Isopropyl alcohol

●      Large and small sterile pads

●      XL down to mini BandAids

●      Butterfly closures

●      Neosporin

●      Cortisone

●      Blister pads

●      Pain management meds

●      High-quality tweezers

●      Locking forceps for debris removal

●      Skin safe shears for clothing removal

●      Magnified reader glasses

●      Pain management

●      Allegory medications

●      Baby aspirin - treatment of a potential heart attack

●      Candy sucker - easy option for low-sugar diabetics

●      Life-threatening medications for severe allergies and diabetes


Components vs Kits

Dealers should cover a wide range of price points and offer both kits and components from respected brands. Two well-known brands are North American Rescue (NAR) and Rhino Rescue, at different ends of the price point spectrum. NAR has good name recognition as the U.S. Military-fielded tourniquet and will appeal to customers familiar with the brand. Rhino Rescue, featured in this article, offers a slightly lower price point that will appeal to customers who want to own many components/kits across EDC kits, vehicles, workshop, and home. Other benefits of Rhino are the poly bag IFAK kits, and for the entry-level owner without much medical training, Rhino Rescue kits include a mini-illustrated how-to manual that is simple to follow in an emergency. Rhino Rescue also offers an aluminum-handled tourniquet for those who want upgraded strength over typical polymer-handle TQs available across the industry.


Complete Kits

Kits offer customers a fast impulse-purchase option that includes components plus a quick-deployment carry bag. Typically these all-in-one kits can satisfy individual needs or act as a starting point to add additional components. Beyond the typical bundled kit saving, another advantage with complete kits is that vendors like Rhino Rescue design the bags specifically for fast deployment and to be as compact as possible.


Specialized IFAK Carry Bags

Notably, IFAK bags uniquely offer single-handed quick-detach/deployment capabilities such as hook-loop detachable mounts and pull-to-release designs. Many hook-loop-backed IFAK bags can easily move and mount to bags, plate carriers and belts with hook-loop-backed fields. Since there is so much diversity in component preference, many people choose to spend a bit more but create custom kits based on a preferred quick-deploy bag and medical components.


Poly Bag IFAKs

For dealers who do not want to stock many different individual component SKUs, another bundle option known as “medic kits” or “IFAK in a Bag” has entered the market. This option offers customer value with kit savings and usually several tiers of included components. Rhino Rescue offers a wide array of options for the DIY IFAK customer that deliver base components in single-SKU Version A, B, C poly bag kits that could be packed as-is or used for a DIY IFAK customer and are available in single packs or volume-discounted six-, 20-, and 100-kit options for businesses, churches and outdoor groups. A nice extra Rhino kit is the no-suture wound closure kit, which includes six ratchet-style wound closure strips.


Sales and Margins

Adding IFAK kits to your merchandising strategy can have a big impact on sales. Average retail medical kit sales average $60, with more comprehensive kits retailing for $100+ per kit and most customers purchasing multiple for home and each vehicle. These kits make excellent cross-sell promotion items that offer a differentiated product and broader appeal than extra ammo or firearm accessories. Generally, most medical brands have MAP price protection. 


Demos and Training

Offering in-store training collaborating with the local First Aid training or utilizing a medic trainer can help teach proper application and allow customers to feel comfortable using the more advanced medical treatment components included in an IFAK. Generally, most untrained individuals apply tourniquets too loose and do not understand the basics of applying pressure to stop blood loss or treat wounds larger than a regular Band-Aid. At the very least, offering a simple video on how to use each component by a store-sponsored medic demonstrating the equipment sold is a good value-add and will tie into online and social marketing efforts.


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