Safety Handbook for Journalists

2. Medical Intelligence and Planning

Medical Intelligence and Planning

Whilst preparing and planning for deployment, it is critical that journalists acquire an understanding of the medical threat associated with the deployment.

Medical threat assessment

The medical threat assessment is a dynamic process. After the initial information is obtained and countermeasures implemented, the assessment must be continually evaluated during your trip to ensure that the preventive measures are working and to identify evolving threats.

Potential health risk categories are as follows:

  • Combat injuries.
  • Non-combat injuries.
  • Environmental injuries.
  • Psychological stress.
  • Infectious and Tropical diseases
  • Pandemics and Epidemics

Combat Injuries

Estimating types of casualties, while extremely important to medical planning, is not primarily your task but having an understanding of injuries in the field will help you evaluate preparatory equipment and measures to be taken.

Non-combat Injuries

Non-combat injuries include those that result from motor vehicle collisions, lifting injuries, slips, trips, and falls. Human risk factors include alcohol use, prescribed or self-administered drugs, lack of sleep, and jetlag.

Environmental Injuries

Environmental hazards exist in every field and can include wild animals, venomous snakes and arthropods, poisonous plants. Environmental conditions such as heat, cold, dust, altitude, and pollution are also hazardous.

Psychological Stress

The importance of mental health in deployments is underestimated, partly because the real stresses of war reporting lead journalists to ignore the probability of psychological trauma. However, this will almost surely have a major adverse impact on the health of the journalist.

Infectious Disease

Throughout human history, infectious diseases have caused the largest number of human casualties. The understanding of the prominent diseases that you are exposed to is critical to your medical intelligence. Creating a list of all possible injuries and diseases that can affect you during your deployment is critical and to have an understanding about your environment and preventative measures that are required. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • How to identify certain diseases?
  • How to avoid such injuries and diseases?
  • What chemo-prophylactics or medications are needed?
  • Do I need insect repellent or a mosquito net?
  • Is the water and food safe?
  • What first aid and protective equipment do I require?

How much equipment do I need?

This question does not have a universal answer. It depends upon for what you are preparing and the number of people on the task.

Personal First Aid Kit: Carry this with you at all times. It contains basic first aid equipment to deal with a host of pre-hospital injuries.

Conflict Zone First Aid kit: If you find yourself in a combat situation, the correct first aid equipment will enable you to deal with injuries that are associated with conflict zone injuries.

Basic First Aid Kit: A basic first aid kit is the building block of any medical preparations. With relatively simple equipment and supplies you can stop bleeding, splint a fracture, and provide basic casualty pre-hospital care.

  • Dressings – Small gauze squares/large squares/combined dressings/battle dressings/ non- adhesive dressings. There is a vast range. They serve two functions: to cover and stop bleeding and to protect a wound.
  • Elasticated /Crepe Bandages – These go by various names (Crepe, Kerlix) but are generally any form of elasticised roller bandage. These are required to hold dressings in place, apply pressure to bleeding wounds, help splint fractures, and to strap and support joints and sprains.
  • Triangular bandages – These are triangular shapes of material which can be used for making slings for splinting fractures and sprains and to improvise a tourniquet.
  • Plasters – Carry lots of them and in multiple sizes. They are useful for protecting minor wounds and skin damage.
  • Tape – You can never have too much tape – it has multiple uses. We recommend a strong sticky tape.
  • Gloves – Needed for two reasons; To help protect yourself from the potential diseases that those you treat might have, and to protect the casualty being treated from any infections you might have on your hands.
  • Antibacterial wipes and iodine – Used for cleaning wounds.
  • Scissors or Multi tool – Needed to cut tape, bandages and cut through the casualties clothing to expose the casualty for assessment.
  • Plastic Kitchen Film – For burns treatment and protecting wounds from further infection.
  • Homeostatic Agents – Ce-lox Granules and applicator (see bleeding section)
  • Tourniquets – You should know how to administer a tourniquet whether you buy a commercially made military tourniquet or improvised one.

Conflict zone first aid equipment

  • 3 x Trauma dressings
  • 3 x Triangular Bandages
  • 2 x Elasticated bandage
  • 1 X Celox Applicator
  • 1 x Haemostatic agent
  • 1 x Russell chest seal (sucking chest wound)
  • 1 x Trauma scissors
  • 2 x Tourniquets
  • 3 X Tape
  • 5 x pairs of surgical gloves
  • 1 x plastic kitchen film
  • 1 x Sam splint for fractures
  • 2 x Antiseptic solution
  • 1 x sterile eyewash

Preparation before deployment

As a journalist you may have to leave for foreign travel at a moment’s notice and so having a preventative medical plan is very important. You should know the answer to these common questions:

  • Do I need inoculations or boosters before I travel?
  • Where do I get them and how long do I need before the inoculation becomes effective?
  • Will I be travelling in tropical or malaria regions?
  • What medications will I need that are prescribed and non-prescribed?
  • What first aid equipment do I need?
  • Am I healthy enough to travel or do I need a medical check up?
  • Am I pregnant or do I have a medical condition?
  • What do I do if I become sick and are there medical facilities?
  • What do I do if I need medical evacuation?
  • Do I need a health check upon my return?