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Saving Lives and Money With a $25 Tourniquet Kit

Posted on Saturday, June 3, 2023
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by Mike Fuljenz
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Tourniquet

In May a Beaumont, Texas homeowner shot a burglar breaking into their home and a responding, well-trained police officer saved the burglar’s life by applying a simple tourniquet to render aide to his profuse bleeding.

In addition to the aforementioned incident, over the past three months, a stabbing victim’s life was saved also saved by a trained Beaumont Police officer, who expertly applied a tourniquet to the victim’s wounds. The measure is credited with helping to save the person’s life and the officer received high praise for his quick action.

Several years ago, my company in Beaumont, Texas, responded to a request for outside funding for tourniquet kits made to members of the local Crime Stoppers of Southeast Texas board, for which I am still a member. Although many other cities had these life-saving tourniquets, Beaumont did not, so we made sure there would be one in every patrol car for years to come.

Tourniquets are valuable aids for officers who are often first on the scene after many automobile or motorcycle accidents. In many such accidents, torsion to the limbs can rupture arteries, causing rapid bleeding. For officers, especially in rural areas where paramedics and emergency services are limited, the threat of a victim bleeding out and dying is very real. Applying a tourniquet is a simple, safe and fast (20-second) procedure to stop the potentially fatal blood loss from major arteries of an accident victim or wounded police officer. (A simple tourniquet kit costs about $25, while a larger “Officer Down” medical package runs around $50 per unit.)

The tourniquet has a French name (based on the French verb for turning, or “tourner”) because a French surgeon, Jean Louis Petit, in 1718 invented a screw device for shutting off blood vessels through applying pressure. The best, most effective type of tourniquet must be professionally made and applied by a trained person.

During the Vietnam War, bleeding out caused 7.4 percent of all U.S. fatalities. In the early months of the war in Afghanistan, a similarly high percentage of deaths (7.8 percent) came from a wounded soldier bleeding to death before receiving medical attention. However, after a decade of using battlefield tourniquets in the Afghan war, the percentage of deaths from blood loss was cut to 2.6 percent by 2011.

This experience in Afghanistan and Iraq inspired police officers — many of whom came from a military background — to use tourniquets to treat severe bleeding from hunting, vehicular and other accidents and attacks.

The trend toward using tourniquets among police responders escalated after the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013 killed three people and wounded more than 250 victims, some of whom were bleeding profusely at the scene. Fast-thinking private citizens near the scene fashioned amateur tourniquets from their shirts or jackets or even belts, saving numerous lives before the ambulances could arrive.

Since then, numerous cities have added professional tourniquets to their police cars. Dr. Alexander Eastman, a Texas surgeon and police lieutenant on the Dallas SWAT team, says, “The idea is to make hemorrhage control a core skill of every law enforcement officer in the United States.”  The leading cause of preventable trauma deaths in the prehospital environment is extremity hemorrhage. 

The Washington Times quoted former Washington D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier as saying: “Our officers are often the first to arrive on the scene of an emergency, and they are frequently confronted with serious medical situations. The emergency care kits and training allow us to provide vital medical attention during those first crucial minutes, which can often mean the difference between life and death.”

Dr. Lenworth Jacobs, director of trauma and emergency medicine at Hartford (Connecticut) Hospital, has recommended that tourniquet kits be easily accessible in schools, shopping malls and other public places that could be victimized by terrorist acts (or have serious accidents). Since 2020, Texas has required kits and training in public and charter schools.

If you’re company is able, please urge them to lead by example and help save lives in your community by providing tourniquets to your local police force or contribute to your local chapter of Crime Stoppers for this project. Seldom will you find a situation in which it costs so little to save a priceless human life.

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