The ABC's of EMT Supplies: A Lifesaver's Utility Belt

HealthcareFebruary 20, 2014

The basics of EMT supplies is summarized by ABC: airway, breathing and circulation. The ABCs are the golden rule for EMTs and medical professionals because your heart and lungs are the single most important organs for keeping you alive. So, let's talk tools.


This is the most basic of the ABCs. It means that in order for your heart and lungs to function correctly, your mouth (or nose) and throat need to be open and clear of obstructions. In cases where EMTs have to secure the patient's airway, we have two tools: the oral and nasal airway. These devices prevent anything from getting in the way of the patient's upper airway. Inserting a device to secure the lower airway, referred to as intubation, is also possible, but it is not within the scope of practice for EMT basics. This lifesaving skill is left to paramedics.


Now that we've got the airway secured, we need to get the patient breathing. The patient may be able to breathe on his or her own now that you have opened the airway, but if not, it's your job to make them breathe. How can you make them breathe? With one of the EMT supplies. A bag valve mask (BVM) is a device that seals over a patient's airway and allows the EMT to deliver high concentrations of oxygen to the patient's lungs.


If the patient has a pulse, there is no problem. Just continue to breathe for the patient. But if this is not the case, chest compressions will be necessary to keep the patient's blood flowing.

There are a few other EMT supplies that play a big role in the ABCs. AEDs are one type of device crucial to circulation. AEDs are one of the most popular medical devices, and you can find them in many public places because they are so easy to use and extremely important in the case of heart attacks. They analyze heart rhythms to look for arrhythmias. In the case of arrhythmias, they shock the patient to correct them. Since many heart attacks are caused by these arrhythmias, AEDs are crucial to solving this problem.

Other Tools in the Utility Belt

Nitroglycerin is another supply that solves a circulation problem. Nitroglycerin is a vaso-dilator, meaning that it opens up arteries and makes them wider. This helps to temporarily relieve angina, as a result of narrowing the blood vessels.

Epinephrine is a drug that enlarges the lower part of the airway, which may start to close after a serious allergic reaction, called anaphylactic shock. While the effects are temporary, this can give EMTs enough time to get the patient treated for the allergic reaction.

And to think, these are only a few of the tricks that EMTs have up their sleeves!

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