If you are breathing, or know someone that is, you need to know basic lifesaving skills. If you have a firearm in your life, home, business, or know someone that does, knowing how to respond to a medical emergency involving trauma should be mandatory. These skills are just as important as any firearms training, and need to be taken seriously.
The American Red Cross and American Heart Association both offer literally thousands of CPR/First Aide classes around the country every year. Check with your local chapter and see about attending one in your community. They cost about $30 and certify you for 2-3 years depending on the course. Keep this certification current by going back when they are getting close to expiring as improvements are made and procedures change every year. If you are balking at the $30 fee, check around, many local community colleges, churches, and civic groups such as the Boy Scouts, YMCA et al hold low-cost or free clinics periodically. Sometimes large employers offer this training free to employees. Check with your local H/R department and if they do not, suggest they start.
The next level would be an EMT certification to learn more in-depth emergency trauma skills. The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians link (NREMT) or just 'National Registry' for hip, together people who are in the know, has links that explain these certification processes and how to obtain them. They range from 58-hour Emergency Responder training that typically can be had for about $200 through a number of schools, to 1200- hour Paramedic training costing thousands of dollars.
An alternative to paying for this training out of your own pocket is contacting your local volunteer fire department. There are more than 21,000 VFDs across the nation and they are all looking for new members. In exchange for a few meetings and the occasional call-out, you can often become EMT certified while helping your community. Its win-win.
I know many people who have received this training and have never heard one say, "damn, I wish I didn't take that course."
Some hi-speed tactical training companies offer stylized "combat medic" courses modeled after military programs. These can sometimes be hit or miss. While these are very macho some don't go much further than "If you see a bullet hole stick a tampon in it," affairs and are not taught by certified instructors. If the program isn't being delivered by a current paramedic with a military or LE background, former Army 68W MOS holder or Navy HM, take it with a grain of salt and shop around for one that is.
A good, free, single volume guide for study in modern combat medicine at the lay level is the US Army's Combat Lifesaver field manual. Do a web search for IS0871 - Combat Lifesaver Course- Student Self-Study. This is the 200~ page US Army basic level of combat medic handbook designed for the average solider to be able to grasp. It was developed after years of modern combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and is well written with extensive illustrations. Better yet, it's a Government publication and as such is free, unclassified, and in the public domain.
Built a kit
Having the training is good, but having the supplies at hand to be able to put that training to good use is better. Build up a kit just for lifesaving and keep it handy. You can buy a first aid kit at any pharmacy and most outdoors stores ranging from $20-$50. These "boo-boo" kits are basic and have a wide range of simple things like band aides, alcohol swabs, antibiotic ointment, Benadryl, and other items to get you through minor first aid accidents.
What I prefer to do is build my own. Using a bag from a surplus store or your favorite tactical tailor, I like to take all of the above items, in good quantities, and add a few that I see as being basic. These include sterile and non-sterile gauze, cling, and sponges. While many gunshot wound pundits preach at the altar of tampons for plugging nasty open wounds, stay away from this. These items are inexpensive and effective but purpose made wound care bandages such as Kerlix are better. They protect against microorganisms such as MRSA that can just really ruin your day while being just slightly more expensive. The military uses Kerlix, so think about that.
- This Trauma Kit is from Blue Force Gear and comes loaded as shown. They can be acquired from $70-$100 or you can build your own. When you grab your range bag, you need to have this in the other hand.
A CPR face shield (after you have training) is very important and place a safety barrier between yourself and the victim. They are effective and inexpensive and can be bought online and locally. A good place to acquire these is your local Red Cross chapter, who often has several models to examine before picking one up.
Other items include survival blankets, adhesive tape, telfa bandages for burns, and lots and lots of good latex gloves that fit you. These are more specialized and you really should take at a minimum an EMR course before using them.
You can make one large well-stocked kit and keep it at home or in your main vehicle. Be sure you grab it at the range or when hunting or target shooting. Don't mix your trauma kit and your range bag together! While this may save space the last thing you want is to have to reach for a roll of gauze in an emergency and find it soaked in Hoppes number 9 or ripped open on a magazine lip.
Smaller kits can be made up and spread around the house, in second cars or left at your business but be sure you have your one main kit and keep it stocked.
Rule of thumb is to limit your liability as much as possible. Do not go past your training or do something you are unsure of. This can still lead to civil liability even with Good Samaritan laws. Remember, the Hippocratic Oath followed by health professionals everywhere is "first, do no harm."
With that being said, render any aide you can and are able to. You may very well be able to save the life of a close friend or relative.
It is a very real scenario that in the aftermath of a gunfight, be it in your house or away from home, there may be injured persons or persons within your immediate area. Once the situation is safe, it may fall on your shoulders to render care. Train for that moment just as hard as you trained for the ones before it.