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Stop the Bleed, Save a Life

  • Category: Our Community
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  • Written By: Frederick Health
Stop the Bleed, Save a Life

Being prepared could save a life. Did you know that uncontrolled bleeding is a major cause of preventable deaths, and approximately 40 percent of trauma-related deaths are due to bleeding?

The Stop the Bleed initiative encourages bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in an emergency before professional help arrives. Motivated by the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, a national emergency response called the Hartford Consensus was formed to help save lives.

The Hartford Consensus brings together law enforcement, government, and medical leaders to improve the survivability of mass casualty events like shootings or natural disasters. By providing civilians and law enforcement the skills and basic tools needed to stop uncontrolled bleeding in an emergency, many lives can be saved.

No one should ever bleed to death from an extremity wound—you can stop the bleed in a few simple steps. You don’t necessarily need a trauma first aid kit to control major bleeding; anyone can save a life, and you don’t need years of training to do so.

If you don’t have a trauma kit

Apply direct pressure to the wound, following these steps:

  • Cover the wound with a clean cloth, like a shirt or towel
  • Stuff the cloth down into the wound if it is large and deep
  • Apply continuous pressure with both hands directly on top of the wound
  • Push down as hard as you can
  • Continue applying pressure until medical responders can take over

If you do have a trauma kit

For life-threatening bleeding from an arm or leg where a tourniquet is not available, or for bleeding from the neck, shoulder, or groin, you should pack the wound with bleeding control gauze or a clean cloth and apply pressure with both hands.

  • If necessary, open or remove clothing over the bleeding wound
  • Wipe away pooled blood
  • Pack the wound with bleeding control gauze or a clean cloth
  • Apply steady pressure with both hands directly on top of the wound
  • Push down as hard as you can
  • Hold pressure to stop bleeding, and continue applying pressure until medical responders can take over

A tourniquet is an emergency device that applies pressure to a limb to limit the flow of blood. You can make your own tourniquet, but a word of caution: an improvised tourniquet is usually a poor substitute for a commercial tourniquet.

To make an effective tourniquet, you need:

  • Material: A band to wrap around the extremity at least 1.5 inches wide. Thinner materials are less likely to stop blood flow and are more likely to cause nerve damage. Acceptable materials include scarves, bandannas, neck ties, nylon webbing, or an ACE bandage. Don’t use belts or zip ties.
  • Windlass: A sturdy, rigid object to twist the material; hand tightening is ineffective. A carabiner, stick, broom handle, or pocketknife is an acceptable material. Do not use pens, pencils, or rely on your own hands.
  • Securing mechanism: Something to keep the windlass from unwinding, like a hair tie, rubber band, or key ring.

Follow these steps to use a tourniquet when someone is experiencing life-threatening bleeding from a limb:

  • Wrap the tourniquet around the bleeding limb 2-3 inches above the bleeding site. Make sure you don’t place the tourniquet on a joint—go above the joint if necessary. Pull the free end of the tourniquet to make it as tight as possible and secure the free end.
  • Twist or wind the windlass until the bleeding stops.
  • Secure the windlass to keep the tourniquet tight.
  • Write down the time the tourniquet was applied.

Learn how to stop the bleed and pass along your knowledge to others. By working together, we can save lives.

If you or someone else is experiencing a bleeding emergency, call 911 immediately. Frederick Health’s Emergency Department offers comprehensive healthcare 24/7.