Stop the Bleed Aims to Save Traumatic Injury Victims
March 31 was the first national “Stop the Bleed” day, but it wasn’t the beginning of the movement. The inspiration for the coalition that created Stop the Bleed came in the wake of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. When it emerged that the number one cause of fatalities on that day was victims bleeding to death, the American College of Surgeons (ACS) joined forces with other organizations to help reduce casualties in similar attacks.
Stop the Bleed has since spread around the world, with more than 15,000 instructors in the U.S. alone. They’ve already provided training to nearly 125,000, but their goal is much more ambitious: ACS and the ACS Committee on Trauma intend to train every American in basic bleeding control techniques. Texas comes in fourth in the nation, with more than 7,000 people trained to date.
Bleeding Control Techniques Aren’t Just for Mass Casualties
Although the determination to train ordinary citizens in the basic art and science of bleeding control stemmed from a mass shooting, the skills have much broader application. It has been estimated that more than 30% of trauma-related deaths result from blood loss.
Some types of injuries that can result in serious injury or death through blood loss include:
- Car and truck accidents
- Work injuries, such as accidents involving machinery
- Motorcycle accidents
- Animal attacks
But, in many cases, trained bystanders with a few basic supplies can stop the bleeding to buy time until medical professionals can take over.
Tourniquets are Making a Comeback
Tourniquets can be risky, particularly if they aren’t applied properly. But, recent studies and experiences in the field have confirmed that the same basic tourniquet that has long been employed in military settings can save prevent exsanguination in the civilian world as well. Tourniquets have been used effectively in several recent crisis situations, including the Las Vegas shooting and the Austin bombings.
While the safest and most effective scenario involves a medical professional or EMT applying a proper tourniquet, doctors say that immediate application of a tourniquet by a bystander can keep a victim alive until emergency medical personnel arrive or the injured person is transported to a hospital.
Some recently reported tourniquet success stories include:
- A Carl’s Jr. employee using a bungee cord to apply a makeshift tourniquet to a victim of the shooting at the YouTube offices
- A Canadian police officer used a Velcro tourniquet to save the life of a young girl hit by a train
- A New Jersey state trooper used a computer cable and a decorative arrow to create a makeshift tourniquet for a man injured in an accidental shooting
One Maryland agency tracked tourniquet use within its response area for a year. In 2017, the agency reported 70 documented cases of tourniquet use: 19 by law enforcement, 35 by fire department/EMS personnel, and 16 by civilians. 67 of those 70 injury victims survived.
Prepare to Get It Right with Training and Equipment
Although tourniquets can save lives, they must be properly and effectively applied. A tourniquet that is too loose won’t stop the bleeding, and removing (or even loosening) a tourniquet to check on it can be fatal. In addition, makeshift tourniquets don’t always work. The best way to ensure that you are in a position to help a loved one—or a stranger—who is seriously injured in your presence is to learn the safest and most effective techniques, and to equip yourself with basic supplies.
If you missed the free training sessions on Stop the Bleed Day, or this is the first you’re hearing of the program, you can find a class at BleedingControl.org.