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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > April 2014 > Tactical Aid Course Prepares You to Save Lives

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Tactical Aid Course Prepares You to Save Lives

A gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport last November and shot Transportation Security Administration Officer Gerardo Hernandez 12 times at point-blank range before continuing on his shooting spree.

Officers neutralized the shooter within about five minutes. However, Officer Hernandez lay bleeding about 20 feet from an exit, and paramedics were held at bay until authorities were assured the terminal was secure. It was more than 30 minutes before airport police placed Hernandez in a wheelchair and ran him to a waiting ambulance.
Hernandez was declared dead 90 minutes after the shooting, but coroners believe he died within two to five minutes of being shot. It’s impossible to know whether faster medical attention could have saved him, but this incident and far too many others have people wondering how to prevent such tragedies.
Yet the fact is, traumatic injuries affecting civilians and law enforcement officers can arise from traffic stops, accidents, altercations, and many other scenarios. No community, urban or rural, is immune.
As a first responder, are you prepared to respond to traumatic injury? If a fellow officer goes down, do you know how to treat his injury and carry him to safety? Do you know how to use a tourniquet on yourself or a fallen officer to control the bleeding until EMS can arrive? If you’re wounded in the line of duty, can you treat your own injuries so you can protect yourself and others until the threat has passed? If you come across an accident scene where a civilian is bleeding heavily from a compound fracture, could you help her until medical personnel arrived? 
The Attorney General’s Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA), in conjunction with the National Center for Medical Readiness at Wright State University, offers a course designed to teach law enforcement officers these vital skills. Dr. Brian Springer, director of the Division of Tactical Emergency Medicine at Wright State, and OPOTA Law Enforcement Training Officer Doug Daniels teach the tactical emergency medical aid course, Self Aid, Buddy Aid for the Law Enforcement Officer.
“In basic first aid, you learn about opening airways and restoring circulation,” Daniels said. “But in this course, we stress that the first priority is to control the bleeding. Law enforcement officers must be prepared for massive blood loss from gunshot wounds. We teach you how to control that bleeding because blood loss will kill you faster than chest wounds or airway loss.”
The one-day course is divided into a classroom component and several physically demanding Airsoft scenarios that require tactical movement under fire as well as lifting, dragging, and carrying the injured. Participants learn how to assess the nature of injuries, identify possible complications from chest wounds, and recognize life-threatening shock. Participants must identify the priorities for basic treatment, which include — in this order — controlling bleeding, stabilizing airways and treating chest wounds, and rapidly evacuating the casualty.
Still uncertain whether this course could be useful to you? True or false: A tourniquet should be used as a last resort on a limb injury, because it will significantly increase the likelihood of amputation.
The answer is false. According to a recent New York Times article, we developed a misperception during World War II that tourniquets did more harm than good. Then, it often took hours, sometimes days, for wounded soldiers to receive adequate medical attention. Medical experts blamed tourniquets for cutting off blood to the limb and necessitating amputation. 
But a proper tourniquet is never left in place that long. If used immediately after an injury to temporarily control bleeding, a tourniquet has incredible life-saving potential. The Times article noted that tourniquets have saved the lives of countless soldiers in recent Middle East combat.  Bystanders at the Boston Marathon bombings applied makeshift tourniquets to the limbs of the wounded, controlling the bleeding long enough to get victims to the hospital. In fact, doctors routinely use them for up to two hours in surgical procedures with no ill effects.
A tourniquet should be placed high on the fleshy part of a limb. It should be tightened only until bleeding is controlled. You can use a modern, easy-to-use commercial tourniquet or make one from available items. A belt cinched tightly or even a piece of fabric twisted tightly around a baton or stick can do the trick. The beauty of a tourniquet is its simplicity. You can place one on yourself if necessary.
The OPOTA course also teaches officers how to use other emergency medical devices in the field, including chest seals, hemostatic agents, and nasopharyngeal airways along with how to dress traumatic injuries with commercial and improvised dressings. Participants also learn the tactical aspects of rescuing casualties, including various carries and drags to move people to safety. The course is designed specifically for law enforcement and is geared to build on your previous training.
Self Aid, Buddy Aid for the Law Enforcement Officer is offered June 30 and Oct. 6 at Wright State University’s Calamityville Facility, 506 E. Xenia Drive, Fairborn. More information is available through the OPOTA Course Catalog link below, and online registration is available through the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG).
Christie Limbert
Assistant Attorney General
Additional Resources
OPOTA Course Catalog (Skills Development Courses)
Wright State University’s National Center for Medical Readiness
Wright State University’s Calamityville Facility
Reviving a Life Saver, the Tourniquet (New York Times, Jan. 19, 2014)