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Mass shootings: 5 steps to saving a life

February 20, 2018 | UCI Health
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Shootings like the one that claimed 17 lives at a south Florida high school on Feb. 14 and other events with mass casualties seem to be an unfortunate fact of life in today’s America.

No one expects to be caught up in one, but as recent participant in a UCI Health class called “Stop the Bleed” put it: “My hope is that once we are armed with the knowledge about how to help ourselves and others in the event of an injury, such as a gunshot or equipment accident, we won't need it.”

Trauma specialists at UC Irvine Medical Center — Orange County’s only Level I trauma center — teach the “Stop the Bleed” classes to prepare people to help others who may be injured in accidents, falls or shootings.

“Getting bleeding under control as quickly as possible is crucial,” says Christy Carroll, RN, BSN, trauma services injury prevention coordinator at the medical center in Orange. “That is what’s going to save people’s lives. Someone with uncontrolled arterial bleeding can die within three minutes.”

Carroll and Dr. Jeffry Nahmias, a trauma surgeon who has taught most of the Stop-the-Bleed classes, say these are the key things you should know in the event of a shooting or other incident that involves bleeding injuries.

1. Ensure your own safety.

In the event of an “active shooter,” experts advise people to run and hide. If you are in danger, remove yourself and any victims whenever possible. You won’t be able to help anyone if you’re wounded, and you’ll divert resources from people who are already injured. Help with casualties once it’s safe to do so.

2. Call 9-1-1.

Call for help, or ask someone else to call 9-1-1.

3. Identify the source of bleeding.

Once you’re in a safe place, identify the source of bleeding on the injured person. Remove clothing to locate any hidden bleeding sites.

4. Identify life-threatening bleeding.

Bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death in trauma, and here are some ways to identify when bleeding is serious enough to lead to death:

  • Blood is spurting from a wound
  • Blood continues to flow from a wound
  • Blood is pooling on the ground
  • The injured person’s clothing or bandages are soaked in blood
  • Part or all of an arm or leg is badly injured or missing
  • The injured person is confused or unconscious

5. Get bleeding under control.

There is little that can be done with wounds to the torso — between the neck and the pelvis — outside of a hospital. Direct emergency responders first to those with torso injuries. For other injuries, you can help by:

  • Using a clean cloth to put direct pressure with both hands on the place that is bleeding
  • Applying a tourniquet two to three inches above a wound on an arm or leg

Tourniquet use was out of favor for many years, but recent military research shows they can stem deadly blood loss on an injured person for several hours without causing harm.

  • If a tourniquet is not available or does not fully stop the bleeding, pack the non-torso wound with a clean cloth and apply pressure with both hands. Use a cloth, shirt, gauze, feminine hygiene pads — whatever is at hand — to press into the wound.
  • Protect yourself from blood-borne infections by wearing gloves, if possible. Try to keep a pair of gloves and a tourniquet on hand, whether in your car, backpack, purse or home first-aid kit.

If you've been exposed to blood 

Next, the helper must help himself or herself.

“If you have been exposed to blood on bare skin or their face while assisting someone who is injured, you should wash the area with soap and water,” Carroll says. “Then as soon as possible, you should seek attention from your primary care provider or other healthcare professional. Then follow up with any necessary medical care after exposure to blood.”

To learn more and undergo hands-on training in preventing blood loss in emergency situations, attend a “Stop the Bleed” class. The courses are offered on the third Saturday of the month at a cost of $30 per person, which includes a tourniquet for each participant.

Register now at www.ucirvinehealth.org/stopthebleed ›

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