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Why you should teach bleeding control for bystanders

Like CPR, packing a wound takes skill, and a new no-fuss trainer makes it easy for anyone to learn proper bleeding control techniques


Sponsored by Rescue Essentials

By Margarita Birnbaum, EMS1 BrandFocus Staff

When someone is severely injured, chances are that bystanders without emergency training are going to get to them before first responders do. Some may know how to perform CPR, but what are they odds they know how to stop blood gushing from a wound?

Packing a bleeding wound takes skill, and the TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer includes gauze and “tissue” with a simulated gunshot wound that can help anyone pack a wound properly.
Packing a bleeding wound takes skill, and the TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer includes gauze and “tissue” with a simulated gunshot wound that can help anyone pack a wound properly. (Rescue Essentials)

In those situations, people with no medical training may play a critical role, because people who suffer life-threatening gunshot wounds, knife lacerations and other traumatic injuries can bleed to death within minutes, says Phil Carey, founder of Rescue Essentials, a company that sells EMS equipment, first aid supplies and other emergency medical treatment products.

Packing bleeding wounds with fabric or similar absorbent materials may be one of the life-saving measures bystanders need to apply to help keep someone alive as they wait for medical personnel, he adds.

“It’s not necessarily a gunshot that we need to pack,” said Carey, a former EMT who has taught first responders and laypersons alike how to stop bleeding wounds. “There are penetrating injuries that come from different things, like someone who fell on a piece of rebar in the parking lot.”

Why wound packing technique matters

Learning to pack a bleeding wound isn’t for the faint of heart, Carey says. Packing a wound takes skill – and learning to do that correctly is as critical as learning how to perform CPR or use an AED.

A new product from Rescue Essentials can help make learning those techniques more accessible for people with no medical background – especially people who may get queasy around blood. The TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer includes hemostatic gauze and a piece of silicone “tissue” with a simulated gunshot wound a little over an inch deep. (It does have simulated “blood” on it for added realism.)

The TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer includes a piece of silicone “tissue” with a simulated gunshot wound and training-grade gauze.
The TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer includes a piece of silicone “tissue” with a simulated gunshot wound and training-grade gauze. (Rescue Essentials)

To properly pack a wound, Carey says, you fill the void with gauze or another absorbent material by pressing it around the cavity wall in a circular motion, keeping one finger inside the injury as you apply the gauze to keep pressure on the wound. After filling the cavity, put pressure on the injury site for three minutes, and then, if available, put a pressure dressing on it. It’s imperative to make sure there is no leakage.

“Leakage is bad,” Carey said. “If you see that the bleeding has not stopped, you have no choice but to remove 100% of the packing and start over.”

Practicing with the basic trainer, Carey says, helps people retain the repetitive motions used in packing wounds. Even experienced first responders can benefit from using it to keep their packing skills sharp.

Trauma experts advocate for bleeding control education

Federal statistics show that trauma is a leading cause of death among American adults and children. And by one estimate, hemorrhaging represents 35 percent of traumatic injury deaths before victims get to a hospital. But results from a recent survey suggest that less than half of American adults know what to do to stop wounds from bleeding.

In the wake of the violent attacks at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the Boston Marathon and a demonstration in Charlottesville, Va., U.S. emergency medical technicians and other trauma experts have increased their calls for bleeding-control education among laypersons to reduce the number of preventable deaths from uncontrolled bleeding.

The American College of Surgeons’ Stop the Bleed program and FEMA’s “You Are The Help Until Help Arrives” initiative are among the public health campaigns to encourage Americans to help curb the number of hemorrhage-related deaths. Courses for bystanders with no medical training are offered nationwide, including one rolled out by NAEMT and the American College of Surgeons. To participate in a class or book one, you can search the Rescue Essentials directory by location.

There are signs that many Americans without medical training want to learn bleeding prevention techniques to help save lives.

More than half a million laypersons have reportedly participated in the Stop the Bleed program. User-friendly products like the TrueClot Basic Packing Trainer make it easier for people to get comfortable with techniques for serious wounds that require packing, dressings and tourniquets, Carey says.

Make bleeding prevention kits available in public spaces

Trauma experts have also pushed for bleeding prevention kits to be placed in schools, airports, stadiums and other public spaces where people gather. In Massachusetts, for example, hemorrhage control kits were placed in remote beaches to help treat people attacked by sharks.

But most serious injuries are caused by much more mundane events.

“Accidents with kitchen knives or chainsaws are more common than terrorist activities, and these kits help then, too,” retired trauma surgeon Lenworth M. Jacobs told Reuters Health last year. “Bleeding control is a life skill that everyone should have.”

As trauma and public health experts continue to push for bleeding control education and demand for courses for the general public increases, Carey says he hopes that corporations, nonprofits, school districts and other employers consider offering courses to their staff.

“Seatbelts took years. ‘Don’t throw litter out of the car’ took years,” said Carey. “We’re hopeful that large companies would want to recognize that they do want to get all their employees trained.”

How can your EMS service help spread the word about bleeding control?

For more information, visit Rescue Essentials.

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