North American Rescue Adventure Medical Kits
DJ Struntz and Mark Healey Help Develop New Military-Standard Medical Kits For Action Sports
SURFING staff photographer DJ Struntz, a world-traveler, spear fisherman and all-around adventure hellman himself, is working with tactical medical products provider North American Rescue to deliver first aid kits for the action sports market that meet military special forces standards.
“A few years ago, I was on a trip in Yemen and I made some connections with the US Special Forces community,” says Struntz. “They gave me some of their medical kits because I only had these generic, off-the-shelf, REI types. The military guys were like, ‘that's not going to cut it if something really goes wrong.’"
Once he realized there weren’t any high-quality, military-grade medical kits available on the public market, Struntz reached out to North American Rescue and got connected with the VP of product development. After sharing his resume and insight, Struntz was brought on as a consultant to help develop kits for the civilian, outdoor enthusiast, and adventure sports market.
The first Adventure Rescue kits, which can be customized from four standard variations and sizes, were just recently released and are available through the NAR Website. All kits include what the company considers basic components for a potential lifesaving kit—major hemorrhage control, a splitting component, a wound caring component, and bandaging.
In addition to Struntz, the kits were developed with input from Mark Healey and other big wave riders, Special Forces medics, surgeons, and other experts. The end goal was to produce compact kits for athletes that are easy to travel with, yet still substantial enough to address serious injuries.
“A big part of this is education,” says Struntz. “We try to educate surfers on the issues you can address with the kit. We provide a training section on the website that show how to use a tourniquet, care for wounds, things like that. It's like, you don't know what you don't know until you find out, so education is a huge component. The whole goal is to make kits that get your friends home at the end of the day.”
Interview with DJ Struntz
What was the motivation behind these medical kits?
I often joke that an over-prepared surfer travels with a first aid kit containing a band-aide and a condom. While my surfer buddies rib me back that I'm a "wannabe Boy Scout," prior to a 2006 Yemen trip my kit wasn't much better, consisting primarily of various sized band-aides (of questionable quality) and in reality lacking key items that are commonplace to our military but unknown in much of the civilian market. A new friend in the U.S. Special Forces introduced me to an undiscovered (for me) world of tactical medicine that includes items like tourniquets and emergency trauma dressings or ETD's that can actually save your life if shit really hits the fan. Thankfully, our trip to Yemen was relatively uneventful on the medical front but out of that experience a new desire began to take root in me to help bridge the gap between cutting-edge tactical military medicine and my adventure/action sports communities.
What similarities have you identified between tactical combat care and some of the injuries that action sports athletes suffer during their missions?
Trauma is trauma, whether caused by bombs, bullets, cars, falls mountain biking or snowboarding, boat propellers, surfboard fins, spears, sharks or coral. No matter the cause of the trauma, the bottom line is that bleeding must be stopped and injuries stabilized until you can reach definitive care. After nearly two decades of ongoing wars, nobody has been doing just that more often than our military. Their needs spawned a whole branch of medicine termed Tactical Combat Casualty Care or TCCC and research into products designed to stop bleeding in a hurry.
How did you connect/partner with North American Rescue?
A couple of years after the dust had settled from my Yemen trip I gave the packaging on some of the products my SOF friend had given me a more careful inspection and discovered that everything that our boys in uniform were relying on came from a company that was located just down the road from me in South Carolina, North American Rescue (NAR). NAR's slogan of "Products with a Mission®" says it all. Leading the fight against trauma on the frontline, their staff of former First Responders is "dedicated to decreasing preventable death by providing the most effective and highest quality mission critical medical products." Bingo! After I read that, I knew that I'd found the first aid promised land – and caught another curveball.
Not being a shy human, I cold-called NAR and somehow wrangled a meeting with their vice president. After explaining the lack of proper first aid kits in the surf, fishing and spearfishing worlds, he agreed to help me begin to formulate a solution. Thus was the beginning of a two-year process during which we talked trauma with everyone from divers, big wave surfers, fisherman, mountain bikers, EMTs, trauma surgeons and Special Operations medics to try to develop kits that would meet the kinds of diverse first aid scenarios that a person might encounter in a wide variety of activities and environments. Drawing from NAR's combat proven solutions, and end-user input, we have carefully refined the kit's contents to the point where we feel it is finally ready to unveil.
Who is currently using the packs? Who is the main target market?
Really anyone in any walk of life could benefit from the kits because accidents happen to everyone. That said, our real target initially is the outdoor enthusiast or action sports athlete who puts themselves at risk and needs this kind of medical first aid kit. Currently, kits are being used by spearfishing guides, water patrol members, and numerous individuals engaged in a broad spectrum of sports from spearfishing to mountain biking.
Is the entire line currently on the site now?
Our initial line is live and available on the site now-we are always working to refine the kits so they will change as we get more end-user input. The great thing about NAR is that they specialize in custom kits to meet the specific needs of their clients, so if you have needs you don't think the kit addresses, you can contact them and build exactly the kit you need.
How are the kits available? Are you currently partnered with any e-commerce platforms? Do you plan to sell these through traditional surf shops?
Currently we are limiting sales to direct-to consumer via our website and know that there are plans to make them available thru an Amazon portal as well. Our current plan allows us to keep the margins slimmer and pass that savings on to the consumer.
Are you officially partnered with any athletes or water safety organizations through sponsorship or in a product development capacity?
Mark Healey is our first "Ambassador" for the new line and has been instrumental in helping us build the kits' contents. Mark is the perfect fit for our company as his activities and potential first aid needs cover so much of the injury spectrum. We have also been working with members of the ASP water safety community to bring this level of care to their athletes as well.
Interview with North American Rescue’s Brent Bronson
How long have you been with NAR? How did your background lead you to the company?
I have been with NAR for 6-1/2 years. My background is that I was a Lieutenant/Paramedic in the Fire-Rescue service, a Tactical Medic on our Police Department's SWAT Team and an EMS Educator. As a provider of emergency prehospital care, I saw the benefits of using evidence based medicine and lessons learned from the battlefield in treating major trauma in a civilian environment. These same lessons can be easily adapted to provide immediate treatment to the injured adventure enthusiast whose injuries often require more than just a Band-Aid and where the immediate treatment of major traumatic injuries using the right equipment can be life-saving.
What attracted you to the adventure sports market?
Professional Adventure Sports photographer, D.J. Struntz contacted North American Rescue about gaps that he saw in the current medical preparation of many adventure enthusiasts. This prompted further interest in how NAR could leverage our experience and knowledge of medical equipment designed to perform in rugged conditions for Military-specific requirements and apply them to the adventure sports market. Reviewing existing medical kits on the market, we identified a clear gap in capabilities addressing major hemorrhage, trauma and wound care that our experience uniquely equips us to address.
How is NAR positioned to have a clear competitive advantage in this space?
NAR has a strong history dedicated to decreasing preventable death by providing the most effective and highest quality mission critical medical products to our military, federal agencies, law enforcement, EMS and pre-hospital first responders. Understanding the rigors of operating in areas outside of easy access to traditional medical care, NAR is uniquely positioned to provide ruggedized, compact and lightweight products focused on point-of-wounding treatment in austere environments. Our kits address everything from minor to severe injuries unlike the average kit that is currently sold off the shelf for the adventure market. NAR's kits are prepared in rugged & compact cases that are organized and optimized to provide emergency treatment solutions until definitive care is available.