When Triangle Bandages won’t cut it…

Enhancing Police First Aid Training


Did you see the recent youtube video of the cop stabbed through the leg with a sword? If not I encourage you to search on my twitter timeline and view it (not least for the cool and professional way it was handled by the cop stabbed and his colleagues).

What would you do if it happened to your patrol partner? Or to yourself if you are in a force that deploys you single crewed? Take a moment to think now. What do you know about how to stop the bleeding? What are you equipped with to do so?

I’m not a police medic, though over the last 25+ years I have had a lot of medical, first aid and immediate trauma training (the last a few weeks ago – ironically sponsored by the police). It got me thinking again about police first aid training. If you follow me on twitter you’ll know its something I have tweeted about before.  In my own force, on a yearly basis, officers undertake the following training:

  • An online package revision theory of some basic stuff like CPR , how to use an AED, some awareness training on dealing with choking, a couple of further awareness subjects like heart attacks & a small section on ‘bleeding seriously’. It takes about 20 minutes.
  • On the morning of our officer safety requal we then demonstrate CPR and putting someone in the recovery position. Takes about 15 minutes.

So that’s it, thats pretty much us outside the occasional online learning package directed around a specialist area like autism awareness.

As for first aid kit all a standard officer carries on them or in their vehicle is rubber gloves for infection control. Nothing else.

It’s not a lot is it? Am to be frank I’m wondering if in these days of stretched ambulance services, edged weapon incidents and marauding terrorist firearms attacks it’s really enough.

Catastrophic blood loss is second only to central nervous system damage as a pre-hospital trauma killer. In our line of work it’s not uncommon for us to come across this type of injury yet officers are not trained nor equipped to stop it. So here is my basic premise:

Train & equip officers to deal with catastrophic blood loss.

Not particularly revolutionary and I am sure that given more time and money we could do more. But right now it seems like a yawning gap in our frontline capability.

Fortunately teaching cops how to control catastrophic bleeding need not be complex or costly and we have a great model to follow already. Over the last 10-15 years the British Army has developed a first class frontline care model that has saved lives through simple and effective training and the issue of modern, realtively inexpensive and easy to use medical kit that all soldiers can and are taught to employ in extreme conditions.

The soldier program revolves around the use of 3 key components:

  • The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT).
  • The haemostatic applicator / dressing.
  • The compression bandage.

All 3 are about controlling catastrophic blood loss. One thing the army learned clearly is that there is little point doing CPR if all you are doing is pumping blood out of the body through injury. Its little wonder the control of catastrophic bleeding now comes before managing your ABCs.

The applications of this for policing aren’t difficult to see. From higher end terrorist incidents and shootings, through to stabbings, RTCs and industrial accidents, these simple tools can be lifesavers.

The CAT is a simple to apply tourniquet that takes less than a minute to get on and can be done on yourself or a third party. It’s really easy to train and packs down small for carriage on the person. I’ve copied the simple instructions below so you can see how easy it is to apply (credited to CAT):


The Haemostatic Applicator / dressing is designed to promote clotting and effectively form a gel like seal over the wound. It comes in an applicator or dressing form (or sometimes crystals too – though these can be problematic).  Again its easy to train and use. There any many brands available but I have inserted the standard celox applicator instructions to give you an idea of the ease of use (credited to CELOX):


Finally the compression bandage again is designed to apply pressure onto a bleed to encourage clotting. Its a battle tested bandage that is easy to apply. Again I have inserted a simple graphic to illustrate the ease of use (credited to paulhemlick.com):


You can see by the graphics that all 3 of these are straight forward to train on and use and can be carried on the officer. They’re proven lifesavers and relatively inexpensive. I don’t think it would take much for us to insert the training into our present syllabus and it would greatly enhance our capability to manage catastrophic bleeding whilst we wait for an ambulance and if we are unfortunate enough to find ourselves in a major incident which generates a significant number of casualties with traumatic / catasptrophic bleeds. It could be the difference between many victims living or dying.

Versions of the above are already in police service with our own medics by and large so all we are doing is enhancing the skills of frontline officers to standardise the ability to deal with a common cause of pre-hospital death and incidents where police are often going to be the first responder.

Aterial bleeding can result in death within minutes if left untreated. Ask yourself, how long did it take for the ambulance to get to you after you attended your last bleeding victim call?




Author: West Coast Response

I'm a Police Sergeant here on the West Coast of Scotland. I love the job and the folk that do it. I enjoy polite debate on policing and criminal justice and am particularly interested in the practical impact of policing policy, police leadership & making the job better for frontline officers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s