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First Responder: Taking Lives and Saving Lives

It’s funny how we go through life and remember something that someone said but not who said it.  Many moons ago when I was in the police academy one of our instructors advised us that “…if it’s not attached to your body when you roll out of your cruiser you probably won’t have it when you need it most.”  I wish I could remember exactly which instructor it was who said that so I could offer him credit.

As I recall that advice was offered in regards to duty gear such as spare ammo, an extra set of cuffs, a knife or other tool like the PR-24.  Our mentor’s purpose was to help we young troopers overcome the desire to be haphazard or lazy and store such items in the glove box, etc.   Before you take off your portable radio because it’s bugging you and set it on the dashboard, stop and think.  “If I had to bail out of the car this instant what would I forget to take with me?”

When it comes to defensive tools; your sidearm, Taser, pepper spray, collapsible baton, etc. most experienced and well-trained cops understand that gear needs to be attached to their body.   A ‘routine’ traffic stop or welfare check can instantly turn into a fight for your life. If your baton is in the car 100 feet away it might as well be on the moon when some jerk face decides to take a swing at you.

Life-Saving Gear

Understanding that our “use of force” tools should be on our bodies, how does that translate to “life-saving” gear?  As I pen this review it’s been less than a month since a Ft. Worth PD officer had to save his life after he won his gunfight.  Officer Marty Stone exchanged gunfire with a robbery suspect after a brief foot chase.   The bad guy was D.O.A. but Stone took a round through his leg.  

Ft. Worth PD has begun training and equipping their officers to stop-gap life-threatening wounds immediately, before the ambulance has time to arrive.  According to the report, Officer Stone used bandage scissors to cut up his pant legs and make a tourniquet to stem the bleeding.  He was released from the hospital and expected to make a full recovery.

Is it on You?

Many agencies are putting their people through Tactical Combat Casualty Care or something very similar.  They are also issuing these trained officers fully stocked kits.  The big question is; where is the kit stored?  Consider our scenario above. 

You respond to a robbery or any ‘in progress’ call and as you are rolling up a witness points to a guy and says “That’s him!  That’s the guy who robbed us!”  The perp sees you and starts running.  Your adrenaline button is punched and you are out of your car and in pursuit.  The turd wheels around on you with gun. Bam!  As you’ve done a thousand times in training you draw your pistol, punch it out, press the trigger and send rounds into center mass.  

The bad guy is down on the ground.  Your chest is heaving.  As you try to catch your breath you look down and see bright red blood pumping out of your leg.  The awesome trauma kit that you were issued in is the trunk of your cruiser now more than 100 yards away.  From your training you know that a femoral bleed will cause you to lose consciousness in about two to three minutes with a normal blood pressure rate.  Your heart rate is double the norm.  You’ve been bleeding for at least thirty seconds when you realize the gravity of the situation.  Grabbing the lapel mike you call in “shots fired, officer injured”.  The ambulance is five to ten minutes out.  What do you do?

EDC Med-Kit

Yes, we can improvise bandages and tourniquets with belts and t-shirts, etc.  But how much valuable time is spent improvising versus simply applying ready -made gear?  Trauma medical kits are fantastic and you should received training and get one, but where is the kit when you are going about your normal daily activities?

Is there a stop-gap, minimalist kit that you can actually have on your body, Every Day Carry, to get you started while someone is bringing the big kit?  That is question that every officer should ask themselves, on duty or off.    

A quick Google search of the term “edc med kit” turned up a few items.  ITS Tactical has an EDC Kit that contains Gauze, a Tourniquet, and Non-latex Gloves in a vacuum sealed pack .  The Pocket Life-Saver from SOTG Gear contains a Tourniquet, Gauze, an NPA, and 3 foot mini-roll of Duct Tape in a vacuum sealed pouch.  Some of the other gear we found was nice but was more “boo-boo kit” than life-saver.

Going back to my academy instructor’s advice, if you don’t have it on you when you roll out, you probably won’t have it when you need it.   Do you have some type of minimalist, pocket-sized kit to apply an immediate stop-gap to a life-threatening wound?  Buying gear doesn’t give you the skill.  However, once you have the skill, do you have the gear available to make use of it?   The choice is up to you.


About the Author

Mr. Markel has been a firearms industry writer for twenty years and currently hosts and produces “Student of the Gun” a television show dedicated to education, experience and the enjoyment of firearms.  Episodes of Student of the Gun can be viewed by simply going to and clicking the “play” icon.