BURTON, S.C. (WSAV) – It’s National Stop the Bleed Day.
Though no one hopes to ever have to take such action, first responders say being prepared could make a big difference in saving a life.
“Doing something is better than doing nothing,” said Cpt. Daniel Byrne of the Burton Fire District.
“A person can bleed to death in five to 10 minutes — a child in half that time,” he explained. “Your average response time for fire/EMS is seven minutes.
“The best you are going to get is four, so when we arrive on scene we are already behind the clock.”
Byrne says by learning the basics of stopping a bleed, “you are putting seconds and minutes back on the clock, so we can get there in time.”
“What we say here in the Burton Fire District is to train our citizens to be immediate responders,” he said.
Byrne says Burton Fire has seen it all, from chainsaw accidents to incidents with kitchen utensils.
“More often, you will use these techniques with a loved one or driving to and from work,” he added.
The first step: direct pressure. For a puncture wound, the captain advises placing a bandage inside the wound until it’s full.
Then, it’s back to applying pressure.
“You can use clothes, you can use different things in your house in order to put direct pressure on,” he said, “but try to make sure it’s as clean as possible because you don’t want to infect the wound either.”
“You don’t want to pack the dirt in there or do some of the things you see in movies,” Byrne added.
One the bandage is there — keep it there.
“What you are really doing is to help the body heal itself,” he explained.
“So as you are applying direct pressure, you are slowing down the bleeding, you are allowing the body to clot,” Byrne continued. “If you peel the bandage back, you could actually rip the clots out and begin to make it bleed again.”
A tourniquet might be necessary for some wounds. The captain recommends keeping one handy in your car and at home in case of an accident.
While there are various choices and price points, Byrne says to think before you buy.
“Some of the cheaper versions, usually around $7, will use thinner materials for the strap. The stick for tightening will bend after a few hard uses and could break,” he explained.
“Keep in mind, you are buying something that might actually save somebody’s life, so you get what you pay for,” Byrne added.
If you don’t have a store-bought tourniquet available, use a strip of cloth about 2 inches wide, or grab the strap of a backpack. Tie it off high above the wound — or above the joint if the wound is on the lower limb — and tighten.
Then, twist until the bleeding stops, or until you cannot twist anymore, Byrne said.
“Once the tourniquet is on, it does not come off. The only person who is going to remove that tourniquet is the surgeon at the hospital,” he added.
“Tourniquets are, in fact, safe to use in critical bleeding,” Byrne continued. “You can actually have a tourniquet on for up to eight hours without any residual effects.”
To learn more about stopping the bleed, training options and educational videos, visit nationalstopthebleedday.org.
Better yet, Byrne says, get in touch with your local fire department.
“Watching a video is great, but if you are actually applying a tourniquet to someone who is bleeding to death, there’s a lot of stress involved,” Byrne said. “You want to get those skills down, so you can do it without really thinking about it.”