A few years ago the whole area of tactical medicine came flying out of obscurity and into the forefront of law enforcement consciousness. Although tactical teams have had tac medics along with them for decades, and the federal CONTOMS tactical medicine program has been around for a long time, until recently the ordinary patrol cop or detective really didn't know much - if anything - at all about it and its most relevant aspect: self rescue in case they sustained a life-threatening injury. The Global War On Terror has given us both new developments in tactical medicine equipment and techniques, and unfortunately, ample opportunity to use them. The net result is that tactical medicine is now both a hot topic and one that's moved beyond its early adaptors and well into the growth curve of ordinary officers. Today, if you carry a self-rescue kit, no one thinks you're crazy or paranoid. In fact, they generally want to know more about it and where to get one. Naturally, training in self-rescue is a booming mini-industry, and it's becoming incorporated into more and more in-service training.
In the early days of the current self-rescue trend (maybe five years ago), you could get very different advice from different trainers as to what to carry in a self-rescue kit. Some advised that you carry hemostatic clotting agents (of which QuikClot is probably the most well known) and some were leery of them. Some trainers had you carrying Asherman Chest Seals to treat pneumothoraxs and some didn't. Many trainers wanted you to carry scissors and latex gloves in the kit and some didn't see the need.
Realizing that most injured cops, unlike soldiers in combat, will get treatment pretty quickly, most law enforcement-specific tactical medicine trainers today have coalesced around a three-part self-rescue kit:
- clotting agent
- super-absorbent bandage
- a tourniquet
Chest seals aren't usually included since most pneumothoraxs take time to kill you. Gloves should already be on you all the time anyway and aren't even necessary if you're working on yourself, while scissors aren't really necessary and you probably have a knife on you in any case. This makes for a pretty compact three-part kit; one that’s easily carried in a cargo pocket of your pants or a small pouch on a raid vest.
"It's critical for injured officers to try and slow down their heartbeat and respiration," says Eric Stratton, Deputy Sheriff, EMT, assistant tactical team commander, and well known tactical medicine trainer through STS Consulting. "During this high stress event the heart pumps faster and harder - both bad when you are bleeding out. Officers should practice slowing down their breathing and attempting to control their heart rate. A good way to show officers this is by having them shoot at several targets and then use a heart rate monitor or pulse oximeter to show them how high their rate is and to concentrate in slowing it down. A slower heart rate means a slower bleed out rate." He continues: "Officers also must practice accessing and using their self-rescue kit. Trying to remember where it is and what you do with its components after you're shot isn't the time to be figuring this stuff out."
A down-and-dirty kit can be assembled with a sanitary pad, a tourniquet made from a length of webbing and FasTex buckles, and a package of clotting agent. Carried in a zip-lock bag, this home-made kit will do the job. A better kit can include professionally designed tourniquets and bandages, such as the H-bandage and the TK-4L tourniquet from H&H Associates. The H-bandage can be applied and secured with one hand, and doesn't require cumbersome wrapping of the limb. The TK-4L tourniquet fared very well in Navy tests and can also be applied one-handed. Going one step further, the relatively new Blackhawk Integrated Tourniquet System incorporates tourniquets directly into their tactical apparel.