School officials and students are taking lifesaving measures into their own hands, arming themselves with knowledge about how to stop massive bleeding during a mass shooting.
Doctors, nurses and trauma experts in the Stop the Bleed national initiative are showing civilians how they can be first responders when a shooter attacks a school, mall, church or airport.
“If you get shot in the extremities, there are things you can do outside of the hospital to temporize that until you get transported,” said Dr. Tom Scalea, head of the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. “When I was in high school I didn’t worry about getting shot. But it’s really — it really happens now. They do worry about it, and they want to be armed with something to help.”
Dr. Scalea is one of more than 100 volunteer trainers at the hospital who teach teenagers, school officials and office workers, among others, how to stop uncontrolled bleeding.
“You can think of this as the trauma version of CPR,” he said. “We trained people to learn how to do CPR at the scene; this is hemorrhage control at the scene.”
Last week, more than 200 school officials from Anne Arundel County participated in a Stop the Bleed training session in Annapolis, conducted by staff from the University of Maryland Medical Center. They join a cohort of more than 3,400 people — including more than 1,000 teenagers — who have received the training.
Kim Biggs, a health assistant at Magothy River Middle School in Arnold and retired Navy corpsman, said she found the training “absolutely useful.”
“This is really the first training where we really got awareness that this can happen in any of our schools, she said. “It’s a matter of — I don’t like to say this — but it’s a matter of just when.”
Ms. Biggs noted that her school is located just a few miles north of Annapolis, where a gunman killed five journalists at the Capital Gazette in June.
“I knew one of the journalists, too. She actually did an article on me a couple of years ago, and I’ve had one of the journalists’ four children in my school, so that really hit hard for me personally,” she said.
Stop the Bleed was organized after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 26 adults and children. The initiative’s instructors have trained 124,350 civilians in the U.S. and 133,113 globally.
While mass shootings garner the most headlines, suicides and homicides account for the majority of deaths from gun injuries. Of the more than 36,000 firearm deaths in 2015, more than 22,000 were suicides and almost 13,000 were homicides.
“Unfortunately, violence is a huge problem here in the city [Baltimore],” said Dr. Habeeba Park, head of the Stop the Bleed initiative at R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “When I’ve taught my West Baltimore community classes, I’ve had even kids say that, ‘Yes, so-and-so got hurt, so-and-so in my family got shot, got cut and I saw blood’ It just reinforces how necessary this training is.”
The training takes less than an hour. A PowerPoint presentation of life-threatening injuries precedes hands-on training in applying pressure to a bleeding wound, packing a wound and using a tourniquet.
Once people have the skills, the next challenge is having materials available for an emergency. Stop the Bleed put together a pack that includes tourniquets, gloves, gauze and a marker. (Trainees are taught to write down the time when they apply a tourniquet so physicians can know how long it’s been on.) Kits cost from $40 to $60.
Ms. Biggs said the Maryland Department of Health issued her school three kits, each with about 20 tourniquets.