On The Power Of Blankets

In my last post I mentioned that the blanket is one of our more important and versatile bits of ‘kit’ that the modern ambulance can have.  In the ‘good old days’ of horse-drawn ambulances the proto-EMT would refer to his equipment as “one and one”, meaning one carry chair and one blanket.

Even today, with our increasingly technologically based health care system, the humble blanket has a multitude of uses.  For those of a ‘hitchhiker’ mindset – think of a blanket as a towel writ large.

  • Primarily it is used to stop little old ladies (LOL’s) from getting cold when you drag them out of their nice warm house into the often freezing conditions of the ambulance.
  • Said little old ladies don’t like being wheeled around in our carry chair – it has no handrests and feels very unsafe.  LOLs will often try to grab out at things to steady themselves – this is dangerous, especially if we are carrying them down stairs.  So we wrap the patient in a blanket, and make sure that their hands are gently restrained.
  • You can use the blanket as a sliding/carry sheet when transferring a patient from a bed to a stretcher, or from the ambulance stretcher to the hospital trolley.  The ambulance blanket is thick and strong with a close weave.  While I wouldn’t like to try using it to lift someone off the floor – I would imagine that it is strong enough to do so.
  • When in the ambulance we can use the blanket to protect modesty.  Some of the things we do to people requires them to bare their chest, for females this can be troubling.  We can use the blanket to cover the patient as much as possible.
  • If the patient has been incontinent while wrapped in the blanket, we can ‘gift’ the blanket to the hospital – it’s what nurses are for (and we don’t carry warm soapy water and wipes in the back of our ambulances).  Nurses soon learn to ‘unwrap’ carefully the patient who has been left in the ambulance blanket.
  • Because of the thickness of the blanket, and the difficulty of carrying vomit bowls into houses, the blanket can catch any vomitus the patient may produce while leaving the house.  Reassuring the patient that it is fine to vomit on the blanket is important in case they become embarrassed.
  • When moving a dead body from a location, two blankets in the ‘T-wrap’ will disguise the lack of life from bystanders.  It’s also good for wrapping up very frail LOLs when it is freezing outside.
  • With the addition of two triangular bandages the ambulance blanket can be converted into a pelvic splint.  This helps stabilise pelvic fractures which can become life-threatening if allowed to ‘wobble’.  As and aside, the next time I see a ‘trauma surgeon’ flex the pelvis in a suspected fracture, I’m going to find their car and let down their tyres.
  • If you don’t have the head blocks that go either side of the head to protect a possibly broken neck, then by the correct folding of the blanket you can form a snug-fitting c-spine restraint.  I prefer the use of blankets to the ‘specialist’ kit here because the blanket is better able to form itself to the patient’s head and neck.
  • Our blankets are red – this makes them idea for hiding blood.
  • If you have a nasty trauma in a public place the blankets are large enough to be used as screens.  This requires the use of two fire-fighters to hold each end.  Don’t worry, they were probably standing around doing nothing anyway…
  • The blanket also works well as an ‘NHS special’ pillow.  We don’t carry pillows on our ambulances and many hospitals are short of pillows.  So roll up your blanket and place between the patient’s head.  LOLs with a curvature of the spine will be especially grateful, as without a pillow their heads tend to roll around like a nodding dog’s.
  • If folded correctly, you can put it on your trolley bed and have ‘AMBULANCE’ written down each side.  This not only looks good but also makes it really easy to wrap patients up in it.
  • If you have a patient who might become aggressive, then the blanket – if tucked in tightly can provide a mild restraint.
  • Doing CPR on the floor for an extended period of time can be wearing on your knees – a folded blanket makes a nice cushion to rest on while pounding away on some dead person’s chest.
  • If someone decides to have an epileptic fit in the back of your ambulance, the blanket can be used to protect the head (or other part of the body) from hitting on the wall of the ambulance, or other hard surface.
  • Have you had a huge spillage of some noxious fluid?  Are you worried that as you return to your station to mop out the back of the ambulance the fluid will run through the door into the driver’s cab and thus contaminate your packed lunch?  Simply mop it up with a blanket.
  • If someone tries to attack you, throw it at them like a net – it may distract them long enough for you to run away.

There are probably a hundred more uses for the ambulance blanket – and no doubt as soon as I publish this I’ll think of another twenty.  Still I think that you will see that the humble blanket has many more uses than our defibrilators and ECG machines.

24 thoughts on “On The Power Of Blankets”

  1. This requires the use of two fire-fighters to hold each end. Dont worry, they were probably standing around doing nothing anywayNever a true word spoken. Lazy so and sos. (I can say that as my boyfriends a firefighter and he freely admits he joined because he was a lazy git and liked the idea of having 4 days on and 4 days off! Now hes an ADO and still doesnt do much!)

  2. Wow, I want one of these blankets – unsoiled though :)If someone tries to attack you, throw it at them like a net it may distract them long enough for you to run away.

    This is my favourite one

  3. wow. And here was me with my blankets ofwarmth


    getting tangled round my legs in my sleep and making me think I've got trapped in a giant spider's web…

    Can someone else do the smutty joke about little old ladies trying to grab things and having to be restrained?

  4. My other half had to be taken to hospital today for an asthma attack (he's being kept in overnight). I cracked a joke with the EMT (nice friendly Scottish fellow from Paisley, didn't catch his name) about nicking blankets from hospitals whilst the nurses' backs were turned. He gave me a very funny look – as if to say, “how did you know about that??” I guess not all your collegues read your blog!Incidentally, should one of your collegues mention in passing a guy taken to Whipps Cross accompanied by two ladies with pink hair…. the younger one was me. 😉

  5. I've been stuck half in, half out of an ambulance with an elderly man with alzheimers on a carry chair who after a journey of total inactivity lunged at the handrail and held on for dear life.I always wrap 'em well now.

  6. Reynolds, you are obviously a hoopy frood who really knows where his blanket is.And those nurse who unwrap, well, the code brown could've happened anytime, say after the patient got out of the ambulance.

  7. My S&R unit are nearly out of blankets since other emergency-units (ambulances..) “borrow” them constantly. Our large mountain-cave stored catastrophy reserve have been shipped to Pakistan for the winter.a couple of weeks ago we had to use “tinfoil” rescuesheets to protect a crashed basejumper from wind and weater while the climbers took her down.

    It was not the same. You could never rip a woolen blanket if you tried, but this tinfoil…. prppt!

    pictures of the event

  8. Now I'm curious about what a T-wrap is. Something like really large-scale origami?Putting a folded blankie under your knees while doing CPR – this one earned me an argument with the instructor last time I did my refresher class. He insisted that I don't take the 2 seconds needed to put the blanket down. I insisted that there's no use buggering up my knees in a practise situation (I get massive bruising) and in a real situation I promise not to go look around for a cushion/folded blanket before I start CPR…

  9. I have an ambulance blanket, may be slightly soiled but as is red am not sure, in my car in a clinical waste bag. There was nobody at the ambulance station when I went to return it this afternoon (I acquired it at a BBA this morning). But I did have ulterior motives for returning it to that particular station; I think it is where the crew came from and I quite fancy one of the paramedics. Is that unprofessional?Cxx

  10. Well… If you are in London you can write off to Ambulance control at Waterloo, give them details of the job and let them know why you want to get in touch with the crew and they will arrange it.Apparently they have arranged two or three weddings via this route.

    …I'm still waiting though…

  11. … enjoy the weedings or even weddings!… and so long as the blankets aren't itchy! The red ones are fine, it's the blackish-grey coloured woolly ones that are horrid. Do they still have them?


  12. LOL, I didn't nick clinical waste! I'm a midwife and when I got to the BBA, I'd told them to stay at home and not transfer as I was on my way and I'd deliver the placenta etc at home. So I did the necessaries and checked the woman didn't need transferring but she was covered with the blanket and they said 'oh, just return it to a hospital A and E sometime' so when I went back that afternoon to do her postnatal check I took a clinical waste bag (so if it had ming on it, it didn't ming on my car) and rescued said blanket. HAHAHA!

  13. Yes, it is. (And I can say this because I'm still a nurse)Because who else is supposed to care for the cleanliness of their patient?

    The problem is, that nurses don't 'nurse' anymore – they write assessments, evaluations, reports. They do research and plan care. They write the care-plan that says “Patient needs assistance with washing”, but they won't be the ones actually washing the patient. They do all the other stuff, and now it seems that no-one 'nurses'.

    That's what HCAs are for? So nurses become administrators, while HCAs take up the nurses role.

    Which is why some nurses 'leave' nursing and become HCAs, because that is the job that they want to do.

    But now this comment could start to turn into a post all on it's own…

  14. My thought exactly!Though you might want to avoid sucking on stained patches of this particular swatch of fabric for emergency nutrition…

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