Posted on February 15 2016
Tourniquets and Battlefield Lessons
by Logan Stark
We all know about tourniquets from our days as Boy Scouts. Consequently, we thought that a tourniquet should be used only in a last-ditch effort to save someone who is bleeding profusely, but that has all changed now.
Not just the Boy Scouts got it wrong, but so did a lot of other people too. In fact, the United States Military, after World War Two, began discouraging the use of tourniquets because the damage done by the tourniquet often exceeded the damage done by the primary wound.
—This is not true. WWII had the same problem as the civil war, very very few vascular surgeons, and no antibiotics. Penicillin only came out at the very end of the war, sulfa drugs were the only means available to try and avoid infection, penicillin was a Top Secret development that the Germans desperately wanted to get their hands on. Due to causality numbers doctors were overworked and infection was a very real killer, amputation was still the best chance of survival for a soldier in a forward support hospital.
Iraq and Afghanistan changed everything that we thought we knew about tourniquets and their use because stopping massive bleeding is tough, and stopping massive bleeding on several people at once is almost impossible without tourniquets.
Today, not only do combat military personnel all carry multiple tourniquets on their person, but law enforcement, search and rescue and regular citizens are also beginning to carry tourniquets as an every day carry (EDC) and it is already saving lives.
Especially with quicker modern response times to trauma, tourniquets have been proven to be one of the safest and most reliable means of stopping massive life threatening bleeding. Bleeding is the number #1 most preventable cause of death on not just the battle field but in the civilian world too.
At ReadyMan, we often remind ourselves, “You are Homeland Security.” We live in a world where violent threats are literally knocking at our doors. We face the specter of increasing terrorist threats in our shopping malls, theaters and places of business. We can no longer pretend that profuse bleeding happens only in combat zones. It happens everywhere, and we owe it to ourselves and our families to have the skill sets that are needed to save lives.
During the Boston Marathon bombing, tourniquets were grossly under-utilized, because they simply weren’t present at the bombing, and the old myths of “last resort” were echoing in the ears of first responders.
According to Harvard Medical School, “An effective, prehospital extremity hemorrhage control posture should be translated to all civilian first responders in the United States and should mirror the military's posture toward extremity bleeding control.” In other words, here’s what the Boston bombing should teach us: we must have more tourniquets handy, and the knowledge of how to use them. It’s obvious to combat soldiers and it should be obvious to civilians. It is so obvious that even emergency rooms in hospitals are starting to use them as well.
Household accidents, suicide attempts and car wrecks claim a thousand times more lives in America each year than terrorism, and they’re often fatal because of runaway bleeding (#1 most preventable cause of death). Recent trauma science now holds tourniquets as a first-line lifesaver right behind CPR and rescue breathing. If you carry barriers and a rescue breathing mask in your pocket or car (BTW, you should) then you should ALSO carry a tourniquet. Any time you go to the shooting range, you should DEFINITELY have a tourniquet in your range bag because tourniquets are saving lives now today.
At home, the best tourniquet in the world, stored in the basement, will be useless if a family member severs a limb or slices and artery. By definition, tourniquets are useful when employed within seconds, or mere minutes. So, for the tourniquet to be a lifesaver, it must be everywhere, all the time and it must be understood and practiced.
Scrolling forward to a possible collapse of civil society; what would be the use of a tourniquet? The rapid response times of ambulances and Life Flight would, of course, disappear. But, the frequency of severe injury would skyrocket.
A man I know died a few years back while butchering a dead horse. While chain-sawing the horse into quarters for disposal, he nicked the inside of his leg and quickly bled to death. A tourniquet, especially an easy, one-handed tourniquet, would’ve probably saved his life.
In the zombie apocalypse, a wise ReadyMan will have tourniquets pre-positioned everywhere an accident may occur.
Near the woodshed.
In the camp kitchen.
Inside defensive positions.
Tucked into every hunting pack.
Attached to his kit.
Most importantly, a ReadyMan and all his community should carry tourniquets, 24-7, on their person and car. Even with low-tech medical treatment after a collapse, tourniquets would save lives, especially considering that blades, chainsaws and axes would become daily companions. Jeff has even developed a rifle sling that carries a RATS tourniquet. So, any time you have your rifle, you have a tourniquet.
Currently, there are 2 main tourniquet options, the CATS tourniquet (widely employed by the US Military) and the RATS tourniquet (invented by ReadyMan founder, Jeff Kirkham.) Obviously, we prefer the RATS. It’s simple, super fast, and effective and only costs about a third what the CATS does. For the same money, you can have three times as many RATS tourniquets pre-positioned about the bug out location.
Buy more tourniquets. Make sure everyone knows how to use them. And place them like fire-extinguishers — everywhere they could possibly be needed.