One of the many tragic parts of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 is that several of the 26 victims bled to death before emergency medical crews could get to them. It’s why a group of first responders and trauma care medical specialists, called the Hartford Consensus, recommended a federal effort to train the general public about how to help slow severe bleeding when tragedy strikes.
“They wanted to empower the public to do something if they see something,” said Beth Moses, trauma injury prevention and education coordinator at Erie County Medical Center. Moses is point person for the Western New York Trauma Advisory Committee “Stop the Bleed” program.
The program was designed for more than high-profile tragedies, said Moses, a certified trauma care nurse. Forty-four percent of the 2,328 trauma cases ECMC handled last year involved falls. Another 30 percent involved motor vehicle, bike or pedestrian crashes.
Q. How quickly can someone lose consciousness and die from heavy bleeding?
Depending on how severe the injury, it can be under 5 minutes.
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Q. Who should attend the classes?
The class is designed for the public, whether it’s a PTA group, a group of teachers, public safety or security officers, staff at a college. It could be the employees at a plant, a block club, anybody. We’ll take it on the road if there’s a group someplace that wants it. Every single person might find themselves in a position to help somebody else. The training is designed to teach what to do until an emergency services crew gets there.
Q. What will folks learn?
The class lasts 60 to 90 minutes. It teaches people how to properly apply direct pressure to an artery. It teaches people how to apply a tourniquet, how to recognize what life-threatening bleeding is and how to pack severely bleeding wounds with hemostatic gauze - a gauze impregnated with clotting material that helps control a hemorrhage. They are now recommending people carry that in their vehicles. If you don’t have that, even using plain gauze or the shirt off your back to put pressure on a wound can help control bleeding. People in the class also are given the opportunity to use tourniquets and practice packing wounds on a mannequin. You’ll get a certificate at the end.
Q. What should people do if someone does start to bleed profusely?
A lot depends on where the wound is. Putting pressure on it is generally acceptable and you send somebody else to call 911. Beyond that, that's what the class is for.
This is a federal initiative. It came out of the White House and Department of Homeland Security. Their goal is to get a Bleed and Control Kit next to every defibrillator that is publicly accessible.
Q. How much do those cost?
The ones in a fancy box that say Stop the Bleed on it - it has eight kits in it and each kit has a tourniquet, hemorrhage control gauze and gloves - it's $900. They encourage people to make their own personal kit and keep it in the glove box, keep it in your home or camping gear. You can buy a kit like that for $50 to $60.
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