Red Cross offers high school students free first aid training

Minutes can make a difference when a life is on the line. The American Red Cross has begun offering free training and certification so high school students can act fast in medical emergencies.

Traumatic injuries are the leading cause of death in Americans younger than 45.

“What we are trying to do is take lessons that we learned from the battlefield, namely that people with life threatening injuries might have a much better chance of surviving if they can have immediate treatment,” said Craig Goolsby, a professor of military Emergency Medicine at Uniformed Services University.

“So if people can stop bleeding, you know, particularly external bleeding from arms and legs, if they can stop it quickly, then we have a lot better chance of saving the lives of those people once they reach the hospital,” he said.

First Aid for Severe Trauma training is available to teach high school students how to talk to each other effectively during an emergency, make sure that the scene is safe so additional people don’t get hurt; and, how to stop bleeding with a tourniquet or direct pressure.

“Just some of those really basic things that can be lifesaving before an ambulance arrives,” Goolsby said.

Even the Red Cross news release promoting the effort has a headline that states “High School Students Can Save Lives, Too.”

Goolsby said people feel more empowered to act in an emergency with even very little training.

“My team has done a series of research studies over the past several years looking at the public’s ability to apply tourniquets or apply direct pressure and we’ve found consistently that just even very brief education, like 15 minutes of education, sometimes even less is really hugely impactful in what people will say their likelihood of responding is,” Goolsby said. “So they’ll start out at a lower level of likelihood of response, get the training, and then all of a sudden, they’re way more likely to respond.”

Goolsby noted that during the Boston Marathon bombing, average people on the street jumped in to help fellow citizens who were injured.

“Giving the public these tools and the confidence to say, ‘You can do this,’ is really important. The FAST program does that. And so we’re excited to be able to empower this next generation of Americans to take those steps,” he said.

FAST digital materials and the Red Cross two-year certification is free for high schools through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

“It’s a public service targeted program to get this really high quality education in the schools and get young people to learn these lifesaving skills,” Goolsby said.

D.C., Maryland and Virginia all require CPR, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, as a high school graduation requirement, but none currently requires any type of bleeding control training.

Schools and other groups interested in offering the American Red Cross FAST program at no charge for high school students under 19 can learn more and get materials to apply to participate on the Red Cross website.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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