Oct. 1 marks the remembrance of one of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. Three years ago, a gunman killed 60 people and wounded more than 400 when he fired more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas.
The shooting was a tragic reminder that mass casualty attacks can happen in the blink of an eye without allowing time for preparation. And as we remember the lives lost and altered by the catastrophic event, it’s important to acknowledge how all of us can be better prepared to save lives in the wake of a violent attack.
There are hundreds of mass shootings in the United States each year, yet a national survey by Orlando Health this year found that the majority of Americans are not confident they could provide life-saving aid following a violent mass attack.
Of more than 2,000 people surveyed, only 41% said they felt capable of applying a tourniquet to stop a victim’s bleeding. Just 42% said they felt capable of applying first-aid skills to help save a victim’s life, including performing CPR, applying bandages and disinfecting wounds.
Unfortunately, these numbers are alarming.
Most commonly, the first person to encounter a bleeding victim is another victim or bystander. This person can truly be the difference between whether a victim lives or dies. Hemorrhage is responsible for 35% of traumatic injury deaths before victims reach the hospital, which means that everyone having basic knowledge on how to control bleeding and care for a wound could save many lives.
Our department first began to understand the gravity of this need in 2016, when our trauma team experienced the tragedy of a mass shooting in Orlando. As patients arrived, we saw firsthand the impact that basic life-saving skills could be and continue to in dealing with trauma every day.
While we are focusing on the impact on physical health, we also have to acknowledge the huge impact on the mental health of the communities involved. Four years after the attack, it’s only recently become easier for me to stay in central Florida on the day of remembrance of the shooting. For the first few years after the tragedy, I made sure I was out of town each June 12.
However, we recognize that the community needs its health care workers here, both physically and mentally, to assist with all aspects of healing, physical and mental.
While every medical team fights for the health of its patients and despises any loss, our real solace has come from the survivors we were able to reunite with loved ones, the families and friends of those affected by the tragedy, and by the community rallying in support.
But what if more people arrived at the hospital in better condition? What if, when tragedy strikes, the general populace was more prepared to act?
Stop the Bleed offers training sessions to schools, businesses and organizations that focus on three critical skills: applying pressure, packing a wound and using a tourniquet.
In teaching the program, we try to answer any questions that could come up in a trauma situation. We teach topics like how long a tourniquet can be used, how to keep a victim calm and how to look for the signs of life-threatening bleeding.
Addressing these issues in a controlled setting with hands-on practice and lifelike mannequins can help someone apply what they’ve learned if they should ever find themselves in a real-life catastrophic situation.
While we all wish that responding to a large-scale act of violence were an unnecessary precaution, we know that anything from mass shootings to jet ski accidents can force any of us into the role of a first responder.
But with just a small amount of education and training, we can all take major strides toward learning techniques that can save lives.
Some participants have already reported back to us that they have utilized what they’ve learned to help victims of car crashes and household accidents, showcasing how mundane everyday activities can quickly turn tragic.
Our goal is that Stop the Bleed’s process for treating traumatic injuries will become as well-known as CPR for cardiac arrest or the Heimlich maneuver for choking. As a more prepared society, we can save lives.
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Less Than Half of Americans Are Prepared to Provide Life-Saving Aid originally appeared on usnews.com