When Master Sgt. Nancy Turner drops her 9 year old son off at school, she worries. Not about his grades, or if he finished his homework, or if he’ll eat a good lunch. Instead, she worries he might be involved in an active shooter incident or some other form of mass casualty event.
So, she does what any good mother should: She makes sure he’s prepared if it happens.
“We’ve had the talk about what to do, how to act and where to go,” she said. “It’s unfortunate, but this is just a reality right now. Active shooter incidents are on the rise and we have to be ready when they happen.”
Turner knows about being ready. As the self-aid buddy care advisor for the Air Force District of Washington, she makes sure Airman are capable of performing battlefield first aid and lifesaving techniques on other service members.
Now, she shares her knowledge of first aid and trauma care with her son, in the hopes it may save lives.
“This is the new environment,” she said. “Now instead of just worrying about deploying overseas to find combat, we now have to worry about and train for domestic terrorism scenarios.”
Turner is part of a team at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland that is instituting a recent government initiative that’s making sure this happens. Called “Stop the Bleed,” the program, which was launched in 2015 by then-President Barrack Obama, provides training that puts knowledge gained by first responders and the military into the hands of the public to help save lives. JB Andrews is the first installation in the Department of Defense to offer this training.
“In the past, we were trained to prioritize airway, breathing and then circulation, but in Iraq and Afghanistan we discovered most people were dying on the battlefield as a result of active hemorrhaging,” said Col. James Alan Chambers, commander of the 11th Surgical Operations Squadron and the person responsible for bringing the program to JB Andrews. “So we began supplying Soldiers and Airmen on the front lines with the tools to apply bleeding control and started seeing a marked improvement in survivability.”
Medical professionals looked at this success and decided it would be useful in the civilian sector, too.
According to the World Health Organization, uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma. A person who is bleeding can die from blood loss within five minutes, therefore it is important to quickly stop the blood loss.
“The medical community decided the more people who know how to control bleeding in an injured person, the greater the chances of surviving that injury,” Chambers said.
The goal of the program is to train people from all walks of life – from children and grandmothers to retail workers and teachers – how to perform bleeding control actions such as applying tourniquets and or direct pressure.
“No matter how fast emergency responders arrive, bystanders will always be first on the scene,” Turner said. “So teaching them how to stop bleeding could mean the difference between life and death for some people who are injured.”
For JB Andrews, the program isn’t just about teaching people, but also providing the tools to perform bleeding control. Wall-mounted kits will be strategically placed in public areas around the base like the theater, schools and other work spaces. Each kit contains tourniquets, dressings and compression bandages. Then, when an accident or incident occurs, people can use these kits to perform bleeding control techniques until emergency responders arrive.
“Bleeding control kits could effectively fill that crucial gap and enable individuals to potentially keep victims alive while medical responders wait to enter the scene,” said Senior Master Sgt. Alex Bueno, 11th SGCS surgery and anesthesia superintendent. “A person who is hemorrhaging from an extremity wound can die from blood loss within a few minutes, making it critical to quickly and effectively stop the bleeding and save their life.”
However, the kits won’t work if people don’t use them.
“It’s important that people who can reach out and help someone who needs it, actually do so.” Bueno said. “Stop the bleed. Save a life.”
In light of the recent increase in school shootings, Turner realizes that the saved life could be her son’s. So now, when she packs his lunch each day, there alongside the apple and sandwich is a small, black strap.
To download a Save A Life flowchart for your workplace – click here
To download a Stop The Bleed booklet – click here