Tourniquet breaks during use, NH responders warned of counterfeit devices

Manufacturer North American Rescue (NAR) Inc. identified 6 different conterfeit tourniquets being sold that are illegally using its CAT trademarks

By Pat Grossmith
The New Hampshire Union Leader

MANCHESTER, N.H. — New Hampshire safety officials sent out a statewide alert last month after what they suspect were counterfeit tourniquets broke while emergency responders in the North Country used them on an injured motorcyclist.

The Woodsville Rescue Ambulance crew was able to improvise with other equipment and get a patient to a hospital for treatment, according to Nick A. Mercuri, bureau chief of the Office of the Emergency Medical Services.

A woman answering the telephone Friday at Woodsville Rescue Ambulance, who declined to give her name, said the boss was out until Monday and they had no comment.

Mercuri said while there is no set protocol, the July 20 alert was intended to let first responders know about the problem so they can check their supplies to ensure that the life-saving device is the real thing.

The state bureau contacted the manufacturer, North American Rescue (NAR) Inc., and learned the company had identified at least six counterfeit devices being sold.

NAR issued a warning saying the counterfeits being sold resemble its CAT and are illegally using its CAT trademarks.

They include online vendors on eBay and Amazon.

Some of those tourniquets, NAR said, have "catastrophically failed" during actual life-saving applications.

The company says the tourniquets should be purchased from NAR or one of its authorized dealers.

Mercuri said the cost from the manufacturer is about $30, but online some are being sold for as little at $10. The lower price could be indicative that it is a counterfeit and, officials believe, probably made in China.

Trying to determine what is real or counterfeit can be tough, according to Chris Hickey, EMS training officer for the Manchester Fire Department.

After the Boston Marathon bombing on April 13, 2015, Hickey took part in an American Medical Response (AMR) ambulance refresher course on how to properly use the tourniquet to stop hemorrhaging in arms or legs.

At the time, he was the EMS shift commander for AMR.

As the emergency medical technicians and paramedics were trying to tighten one of the tourniquets, a rod snapped in half, rendering it useless, he said. Then a second one broke as another employee was using it, as it did in therecent Woodsville incident.

The devices were knock-offs, Hickey said.

"You put the real one and the counterfeit side-by-side and you couldn't tell the difference," he said. What was different, however, was the strength of the plastic used in the windlass, or rod.

AMR, he said, immediately called the manufacturer, gave them the lot number on the devices and sent along a video one of the employees had taken showing the rod breaking.

All the CATs were immediately replaced on AMR's ambulances – in Nashua, Manchester and Candia. Now, the life-saving devices are purchased directly from the manufacturer.

Hickey said widespread civilian use of the tourniquets began after so many lives were saved during the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars when every soldier carried one on the battlefield.

After the Boston Marathon bombings, their use became even more prevalent because first responders said had they been available that day some of the injuries might have been limited.

Hickey explained the tourniquets are basically a belt with a rod that you "twist, twist and twist" until the flow of blood is stopped, and then the rod is inserted into a clip to hold it in place.


©2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.)

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