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Officer Radio: Blood Loss & Tourniquets

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Editorial Director, Lt. Frank Borelli (ret) interviews Doctor Keith Rose, a Tactical Medical Physician, an instructor at the International School of Tactical Medicine and the inventor of BLACKHAWK’S Integrated Tourniquet System (I.T.S.).  They discuss potentially lethal blood loss and how it can be prevented if it results from an extremity wound.

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As a police officer of more than two decades, I can still clearly remember being taught how important COVER is. We were told a story about a city police officer who went into a Chinese restaurant to pick up food and walked right into an armed robbery. Three bad guys, one good guy. The officer won the gunfight, but ultimately lost because a hit to his femoral artery caused him to bleed to death.

Tourniquets aren't anything new. They've been in use by doctors for hundreds of years, albeit in a different form than what we usually visualize them as today.  Battlefield doctors have long known that blood loss is a major cause of deaths resulting from war wounds, and that the timely application of a tourniquet could save lives--even if it meant sacrificing part of a limb. As our protective apparel improved--body armor, helmets and such--the importance of stopping blood loss from extremity wounds has increased. As our torsos are more protected, our chances of dying as a result of extremity wounds increased, and on today's battlefield, the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) has proven just how dangerous shrapnel injuries can be. A laceration of the major arteries that run the lengths of our arms or legs can cause a death fairly quickly unless a tourniquet can be applied.

Knowing that, the military has been issuing tourniquets to medical personnel for a long time. There is a challenge though: if the medic has the tourniquet and he can't get to the injured warrior, what happens? The same as would if the tourniquet didn't exist at all. What if the medic CAN get there, but can't get the tourniquet directly around the limb because of worn accessories? Picture someone you know wearing a drop leg holster on one side, an equipment platform on the other, a vest, rappel harness, and what else? It isn't necessarily easy to get that stuff off or out of the way enough to get a tourniquet directly around the limb; and it won't work any other way.

All of that thought imagery is equally applicable in today’s law enforcement profession.  Every day we go to work with the reality that we might be injured, shot, lacerated, etc.  Tourniquets can save our lives and/or enable us to help save the lives of others (think about the injuries caused by the recent bombing in Boston).

Take a listen to the podcast.  Pay attention to the question asked and the answers given.  Share the good info with your partner, supervisor, Lieutenant, Chief of Police, etc.  Don’t just listen but enact what you learn.  The life you save may be your own!