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First Aid Utility Shears
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First Aid Utility Shears

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Paramedic seven-inch stainless steel utility (or trauma) shears make a valuable addition to every emergency first aid kit. They can be purchased with a belt holster and can cut through seatbelts, cloth, wire, leather, sheet metal, cardboard, rubber hoses and carpet. In fact they can substitute, in many cases for a knife, and because they are viewed as medical equipment can be brought into areas where knives are considered weapons. In many respects they are the greatest thing since sliced bread to have around in a disaster.

They have a flat safety side, so one can cut clothing from a wounded person without damaging their skin. They are used to cut bandages as well, and may be autoclaved. They come in cutelry-grade steel and stainless steel versions. I prefer the stainless steel. The stainless steel shears should be sterilized by boiling because chlorine corrodes stainless steel. Most paramedics and EMT's delight in wearing shears that were last sterilized in 1954, wearing the blood-encrusted accessories as one would a combat medic badge. Wash and sterilize them after contact with bodily fluids. Blood can be removed with steel wool, and then then can be boiled in a pot at a rolling boil for fifteen minutes. The problem is, if you have a holster is that the blade gets re-contaminated when it goes back in the holster. You can use alcohol on them before use. Vodka in an emergency.

You can actually cut a penny in half with them, but this tends to dull the blade.

They can also be used to open canned goods. Use your hand to force the sharp blade into the top of the can and cut out the lid. This works out better than it sounds. They are very handy to have on a camping trip. You can cut a cal with the shears to make objects, such as a small stove. They can also cut liter plastic soda bottles to make emergency containers for food, soup, or liquids.

And to cut up twigs or heavy cardboard to start a small fire.

They come in various colors. Get a different colored one (with a holster) for every member of the family. They can be purchased as medical supply stores, medical book stores, and on the internet.
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The paramedic shears can also be used to trim foam cervical collars to size. In a disaster there may be a shortage of sizes. If you stock only large ones, they can be cut down to fit smaller people. The smaller collars, however, cannot be "upsized". You can also use paramedic shears to make "expedient" cervical collars of heavy corrugated cardboard, cut to size and wrapped and secured with duct-tape.

It helps to have a sharpening stone around, to refresh the edges of the scissors. Use single long strokes and a lubricant. Olive oil works fine as an emergency sharpening lubricant. They should then be cleaned, washed and be spotless and dry when placed in the holster.

One blade (the lower blade) is rounded and bent at ninety-degrees at the tip to make it impossible to cut skin. These can also be used to eviscerate deer and rabbits without puncturing the intestines. Of course they make good all-around kitchen shears as well, as long as they haven't been use on patients.

There are many varieties, and some "knock-offs" that aren't as durable.

The ability to bring these shears through checkpoints cannot be undervalued. Many facilities have an "amnesty box". FEMA has set these up during previous general emergencies. They won't "hold" a knife. They will destroy it.  Yes,  the insanity of the bureaucracy. There are many ocasions when you need to cut something. The paramedic shears can perform many of the tasks that you require a knife or a box-cutter for.

Of course they are excellent for cutting duct tape and opening sandbags (which may be tied tight and holding supplies), boxes containing supplies, and paper (of course).
If you carry these in the field as a first responder it helps to have a loop of leather (a lanyard) around one handle to slip over your wrist under certain circumstances. This makes it impossible to drop them, which is easy to do in the rain or a snowstorm, during a water rescue, or under circumstances where they might fall into an inacessable place.
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