By: Stefanie Saffern
In today’s day and age you never know when disaster will strike, and it is important for all of us to know how to treat the wounded at the scene until medically trained professionals arrive. Mass shootings and mass casualty incidents are unfortunately becoming more commonplace. Other scenarios may also require the life-saving skills of an immediate responder, such as a home injury, natural disaster, or traffic accident.
While most people believe that Emergency Medical Services (EMS) will arrive in time to save a person, the average EMS response time in an urban center is 7 minutes. A person can bleed to death in 2-6 minutes depending on the which blood vessel was penetrated, the patient’s medical history, and the cause of the bleed. Therefore, it is imperative that the person receives immediate medical intervention before these precious minutes slip away. “Basic first aid training has been shown to prepare bystanders to react and provide immediate and efficient treatment for a wide variety of incidents.” ¹
The government has recognized the importance of educating and providing its citizens with the necessary tools so people do not bleed to death. “The Stop the Bleed® campaign was initiated by a federal interagency workgroup convened by the National Security Council Staff of The White House. The purpose of the campaign is to build national resilience by better preparing the public to save lives, and raise awareness of basic actions to stop life threatening bleeding following everyday emergencies and man-made and natural disasters.” 2 Learning basic interventions can help save the life of a stranger, loved one, or even yourself.
Five interventions that can save a life
- Personal Safety First. Make sure that the area is safe for you and the injured person before checking the person for wounds. If possible, apply gloves to protect yourself from exposure to bodily fluids before starting any intervention. If gloves are not available, try to use a plastic barrier.
- Apply pressure. If you do not have a tourniquet or a pressure bandage, like The Emergency Bandage®, grab whatever is handy, such as a shirt, paper towels, or even just your hands, and apply pressure. In order to apply pressure effectively, place one hand on top of the other and interlace the fingers. If the open wound is located close to a bone, there is a very good chance that by applying pressure to the proximal bone, you will be able to control the blood flow. Do not stop applying pressure until the paramedics arrive. If the wound is located on chest or abdomen, cover it with an absorbent material.
- Apply a tourniquet or pressure bandage. If the injury is located on an extremity, like your arms or legs, and you have a tourniquet available, use it. Place the tourniquet high and tight above the wound. It is important to write down the time you applied the tourniquet. Do not remove the tourniquet for any reason. If the person sustained an injury to his head, neck, groin or armpit, it is best to use a trauma bandage. Pressure bandages, like The Emergency Bandage®, are multifunctional and can apply 30-40 lbs. of force directly to a wound.
- Remove wet clothing. If the patient’s clothes are covered in blood or are wet, remove them and replace them with dry clothes or a thermal blanket, such as the Blizzard Blanket to keep them warm. This will allow you to check for any other injuries and prevent hypothermia.
- Call 911. It is preferable to wait for an ambulance whose trained personnel can stabilize the patient and transfer them to the hospital. If you are located in a rural area, evacuate the trauma victim to a hospital as soon as possible.
Everyone has the ability to become an immediate responder and increase the chances of survival for someone who has sustained a traumatic open injury. Stop the Bleed classes are taking place across the country and will teach you the techniques that you need to save a life. Storing a bleeding control kit in your home, office, or car and learning how to use its equipment efficiently is an important first step to providing emergency hemorrhage control in case of an emergency. The bleeding control kit should include a tourniquet, a pressure bandage, packing gauze, bandage shears, and gloves. Knowing basic bleeding control techniques and carrying a hemorrhage control kit are crucial to increasing a person’s chance for survival in the event of a life-threatening injury. Take the first step to becoming an immediate responder, learn lifesaving skills, and carry the essential equipment. It’s never too late to learn how to save a life.