TINTON FALLS, N.J. -- Since his days as a Vietnam War medic, Dave Hammond has seen a need for a first aid kit that could walk someone through giving emergency medical care until trained help arrives.
When seconds count, panicked people shouldn't be rummaging through jumbled supplies inside a case or trying to read a first aid manual, the Navy veteran said. Worse, many kits don't include instructions.
So Hammond, who has spent three decades in the medical training field, developed a more sophisticated first aid kit, initially for hazardous industries, then for schools, government and corporations. He and his wife Linda, turned the idea into a small business now called Smart Care, and are also selling kits for consumers, travelers and outdoors enthusiasts.
Hammond's idea integrates first aid supplies with step-by-step instructions. Each kit has slots neatly holding individual, labeled and color-coded packets for the most common medical emergencies, such as a red one for "Bleeding." Each sealed packet contains every item needed to treat that condition, plus illustrated instructions.
"Instead of sticking their hand into a kit that's been pawed through by other people, they can just pull what they need," said Bonnie Timko, national occupational health nurse administrator for the U.S. Postal Service. Postal officials began putting the kits in mail processing centers nationwide about two years ago.
The instruction cards swayed Detective Dan Dede, who does medical training for some 600 deputy sheriffs with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in Florida. Many complain they don't do CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and other medical procedures often enough to remember everything.
Dede said the kit helped a deputy handle a one-car accident where the driver had stopped breathing. "As soon as he got the guy where he was breathing again, he stopped the bleeding" from the man's knee with help from the instruction cards, Dede said.
Hammond's business is an outgrowth of his years in medical training.
After a two-year tour as a Navy hospital corpsman in Vietnam, he spent two years as director of training for Navy medics, who were being shipped to Vietnam with little instruction. He found ways to simplify their training, then refined his system as civilian director of training for the Navy Medical Department from 1974 to 1978.
By then, he saw a bigger need: for an organized system to help civilian bystanders stabilize a patient until medical personnel arrived. In the United States each year, there are about 20.4 million serious accidental injuries. They are the leading cause of death for people age 44 and younger, killing roughly 96,000 people, according to the National Safety Council.
He began researching the most common injuries and how best to explain emergency treatment in the field. Hammond then designed a system for oil rigs, featuring a file cabinet with drawers color coded to each injury, linked to an optical laser disk system with videos giving step-by-step care instructions.
That evolved to the instruction cards and lightweight, portable first aid kits, which range in price from $30.95 for consumer kits up to $99 for the biggest corporate and industrial ones.
Now the Hammonds are developing care cards that also will have a computer chip that say the instructions, much like talking greeting cards.
Revenues for their business have grown to about $400,000 a year and net income last year hit $100,000. While the Hammonds have mostly sold the kits by marketing them directly to businesses, they are also planning to sell them through their Web site, www.futureoffirstaid.com.
The National Safety Council, a federally chartered nonprofit agency that runs 4,000 first aid training centers at U.S. hospitals, schools and fire departments, started a partnership with the Hammonds in 1998 to promote the kits to members. Ads in council publications sport slogans such as, "The only first aid kit with a paramedic inside."
The council reviewed the wording on the instruction cards, comparing it with guidelines from major medical groups.
"This guy did not miss anything," said Donna Sigfried, executive director of the council's Home & Community Safety & Health Programs. "There's no second-guessing or doubt. It's right there."
The council has begun customizing kits for specific industry needs, starting with a farm first aid kit that includes amputation equipment that should go on sale this summer. The organization's 18,000-plus members, from Fortune 500 companies to school, youth and community groups, have bought more than 4,500 kits.
Those range from the large, "On the Job" kit sold to businesses and government agencies, to consumer versions called "Safe at Home" and "On the Move." A new survival kit includes first aid packets, plus food and water rations, water purification tablets, tools, waterproof matches and plastic sheeting for a shelter.
The instruction cards include a brief form to note the injury victim's name, time of injury, symptoms, treatment, allergies and other information crucial for medical personnel.
National Safety Council, www.nsc.org