Stop the bleed: You are the help until help arrives

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Fire Rescue in partnership with the Trauma Training Group presented the nationally recognized Bleeding Control (B-Con) course free of charge to Okeechobee residents on May 14 and 18. The three instructors were Capt. Brian Anderson, retired battalion chief from Miami-Dade County, and his wife, Georgia (an RN), who both work with the Trauma Training Group, and Capt. Ryan Hathaway, who is part of OCFR.

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
Mayor Dowling Watford practices what he learned in the Stop the Bleed course.


During the first hour of the course, the team explained the need for bystanders to be trained. Immediate responders can play significant roles during large scale incidents such as hurricanes, mass shootings and terrorist attacks, they said. They can save lives before first responders arrive. “Any loss of life caused by untreated, controllable bleeding is a tragedy,” they said.

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
OCFR Capt. Ryan Hathaway and retired Battalion Chief Brian Anderson, from the Trauma Training Group, demonstrate the proper use of tourniquets to the Stop the Bleed class.


Capt. Hathaway said it helps to remember the ABCs of Bleeding:
• A is for alert. Call 911. Yell for help. Let someone know you need help.
• B is for bleeding. If you find an injured victim, and he is bleeding, look for the source. Is there a lot of blood around the area? If blood is spurting or pooling, the injury is life threatening.
• C is for compression. The wound needs to be compressed either with a tourniquet or with direct pressure and some type of cloth. If clean cloth is available, use it but if not, use dirty cloth. According to Mrs. Anderson, one of the first things they will do in the emergency room is give the victim antibiotics. Stopping the bleeding with a dirty cloth is better than allowing them to bleed to death. Many people believe that if you apply a tourniquet, the victim might have to have his limb amputated. “This is a myth,” said Capt. Hathaway. “Use the tourniquet.”


Some common mistakes made when dealing with a wound are the following:
• Not making the tourniquet tight enough;
• Not using a tourniquet;
• Not using a second tourniquet;
• Periodically loosening the tourniquet to allow blood flow — NEVER loosen it;
• Removing the tourniquet;
• Removing the cloth or gauze applied over the wound.


If the bleeding does not stop after you apply one tourniquet, you may need to apply a second and occasionally even a third, said Capt. Hathaway.


One of the questions asked in the class was, “If I don’t have a tourniquet handy, can I use a belt?” Belts do not work very well, explained Capt. Hathaway. They are difficult to tighten. A better choice would be a scarf or handkerchief that can be rolled to a two inch thickness.

Lake Okeechobee News/Cathy Womble
RN Georgia Anderson from the Trauma Training Group explains to the Stop the Bleed class how to pack a wound with QuikClot®.


Another question was, “Where do you apply the tourniquet?” In the military, they say, “Go high or die,” said Capt. Hathaway. You can’t always tell where the bullet went. They didn’t always have time to look, so they would put the tourniquet up high on the leg or arm to make sure it was high enough to stop the bleeding. In the class, they recommend about three inches above the wound if you are very sure you know where the wound is. Don’t forget to check the back though, he said. A bullet can go in low in the front and come out higher in the back.


There are some areas of the body where you obviously could not put a tourniquet — the neck, the shoulder, the abdomen, the groin. In those areas, you would use direct compression. Mrs. Anderson demonstrated this technique on a mannequin. You unroll the gauze or cut thin strips of fabric and then stuff it into the hole as if you were stuffing a pillow or a turkey. You keep pushing it in there until no more can possibly go in, and then you put more on top of the wound and using your hands, press down with your entire body to try to hold back the blood flow until help arrives. Arteries are similar to elastic, she explained. If you have ever broken the elastic in a pair of slacks and seen how it snaps back away from the place where it broke, you will understand that the artery is not sitting right there at the edge of the wound, it could be inches away. Your goal is to get that fabric all the way to those ends and stop the bleed back there.


The Stop the Bleed Campaign was begun by Homeland Security in an effort to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives. Their website says, “You are the help until help arrives.”


There are five simple steps that can help save lives:
• Call 9-1-1;
• Stay Safe;
• Stop the Bleeding;
• Position the Injured;
• Provide Comfort.


You can host this free training at your club, business, house of worship or government/public meeting facility by meeting a few requirements.
• Create a list of individuals who will attend. Groups can range in size from 6-16.
• Select a proposed date and time. A few potential dates would be helpful in scheduling instructors.
• Prepare a classroom area with adequate seating and electricity for computer, projector and screen.
• If the Enhanced B-Con course is desired, the classroom must be able to be darkened.
• Contact the staff at Trauma Training Group to set it up at 772-446-1248. Further information can be obtained at TraumaTrainingGroup.org.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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