Image source: Wikimedia Commons / commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shooting_at_Pulse_Nightclub.jpg
In the midst of a mass shooting, would you have the simple skills to help save another person’s life?
During emergency situations, like the deadly shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas early this month, blood loss is the leading cause of preventable death.
Doctors are now urging the public to get involved and learn what steps they can take to prevent tragedy in these instances.
The “Stop the Bleed” campaign, launched in October 2015 by the White House, is a national awareness campaign to educate the public on what to do in these situations.
The initiative was founded in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut.
In a subsequent review of autopsy data based on mass shootings by the American College of Surgeons, doctors recommended a new protocol.
It’s known as The Hartford Consensus III, and it’s designed to lower the number of casualties during these events.
“Laypeople, instead of police, are oftentimes really the first people on scene in these environments,” Dr. Adam D. Fox, the section chief of trauma at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, told Healthline.
Fox initiated the first “Stop the Bleed” program at Rutgers several years ago, and his team has since trained more than 500 members of the public.
“[Bystanders], more often than not, are willing to help,” Fox said. “If you provide them with the opportunity and education as well as the equipment to do something to affect some change in someone who might be bleeding to death, you might be able to save someone’s life.”
“Hot” and “cold” zones
In active shooter situations, the priority of police is to stop the perpetrator, not render aid.
Police might focus on clearing out an entire building of danger before tending to those who have been shot.
From the perspective of saving lives, that just wasn’t working.
“There was a disconnect between medical and tactical,” said Fox.
Fox explained that during these events, space is broken up strategically into zones by police and first responders.
One is a hot zone, where a shooter is still active.
Another is a cold zone, an area deemed safely outside the hot zone and away from danger.
New protocol now recommends the use of a warm zone, such as a room inside a building that is still considered “hot,” to begin first aid quickly, rather than waiting to get the wounded to a cold zone.
“Now the theory is that you go in and provide medical care as soon as humanly possible when the scene is at least somewhat safe. It may not be completely safe, but it’s much better,” said Fox.
Three steps to stop bleeding
“Stop the Bleed” instructs bystanders in three simple steps how to prevent death due to excessive blood loss:
- Apply firm and steady pressure with hands to the bleeding site.
- Apply a dressing, such as a cloth, bandage, or gauze, and apply pressure to the bleeding site.
- If bleeding doesn’t stop through pressure alone, apply a tourniquet. Tourniquets should be placed 2–3 inches closer to the torso than the site of the bleeding. More than one can be applied if bleeding doesn’t stop.
There are some finer points to these instructions, and individuals are encouraged to take part in “Stop the Bleed” courses, which are offered for free around the United States.
But the take-home message is clear and will make a difference: Apply pressure with whatever resources are at hand.
“These basic techniques should be taught to everybody. In the world that we live in today, just like CPR, which is felt to be an incredibly important and is rightly so, stopping the bleed and learning the issues related to that is equally important to save someone’s life,” said Fox.
How to recognize shock
Hypovolemic shock (sometimes called hemorrhagic shock) occurs in humans when individuals lose roughly 20 percent or more of the body’s blood supply.
It’s a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention.
Symptoms include rapid heart rate, confusion, cold or clammy skin, blue lips, and loss of consciousness.
It may be difficult to identify and accurately assess individuals in shock during mass shooting events.
So individuals trying to help victims should pay attention to the amount of blood in the area of a wound, and whether or not the victim is unconscious.
Indicators of significant blood loss are:
- large amounts of blood pooling on the floor near a wound
- a bleeding individual who is no longer able to talk
- blood spurting out of a wound
Bleeding is actually an indicator that a victim is still alive.
“They have a blood pressure driving that blood to squirt out, so therefore you should do something about it,” said Fox. “If they are no longer bleeding and are unresponsive, they may be dead already.”