ORLEANS — Townspeople are flocking to courses to learn how to “Stop the Bleed.” The monthly sessions given by the fire and rescue department with the support of the Orleans Citizens Forum are already fully booked into the spring.
Twenty-five people attended a training Jan. 17 at the senior center, where Fire Chief Anthony Pike explained that the program had originated at the White House in 2015 as a way to respond to “man-made violence” by stopping “life-threatening bleeding” from wounds. Pike said other opportunities to intervene exist.
“On the Cape, we have sharks,” he said, noting two encounters last year, one of them fatal. “We have table saw injuries, snow blower injuries.”
Stanching the flow of blood while waiting for emergency personnel can save lives, and the purpose of the training is to give confidence to bystanders to take a few simple steps to do that.
Pike offered his students the ABCs of the program: Alert (call 911 first), Bleeding (find the wound), Compress (stop the bleeding). He praised the Boston Marathon bombing rescuers who ran into a nearby sportswear store and grabbed clothing to make tourniquets and to pack wounds.
The chief cautioned that people should “make sure the scene is safe for you. If you have gloves, use them. If you have eye protection, use it.”
You can use a beach towel, and “it doesn't have to be clean,” Pike said. “You can save somebody's life with what you have in your car.” He suggested keeping kits in the car and at home packed with gloves, eye protection, a tourniquet, and hemostatic packing.
In an emergency, it's important to call 911, not the fire department, according to the chief. “When you're on with 911, help is already on the way,” he said, whereas if you call the station a responder will have to take the information down and call another number to report it.
Once you've made the call to 911, “look for life-threatening bleeding,” Pike said. Watch for spurting, soaked clothing, a pool of blood on the ground, a severed limb, or loss of consciousness.
When you've found the wound, tie a tourniquet – which could be a towel - two to three inches above it or higher. The neck, shoulders and groin can't be tourniqueted and knee and elbow joints must be avoided. Keep tightening the tourniquet until the bleeding stops. “If the blood stops coming,” Natural Resources Director Nate Sears said, “there's no need to pack” the wound.
“Your patient is probably going to tell you that it hurts really bad, “ Pike said. “It's supposed to.” To which Sears added, “A person screaming from a tourniquet is a good thing. If they're feeling pain from a tourniquet, they're alive.”
Some wounds will require compression to prevent further blood loss. Be sure to apply firm pressure to stop the bleeding. Once you've started the compression, don't lift up the covering you've used to check on the wound; keep the pressure steady until emergency personnel take over.
Pike said he's working with Sears to ensure that there will be caches of materials to stop bleeding in kiosks on Nauset Beach this year. “It's something they do in Australia,” he said. “It will be a pilot program in Orleans.”
Joining the chief and Sears to provide hands-on training in small groups were Deputy Chief Geof Deering, Paramedic Aaron Burns and Administrator/EMT Melissa Clayton. People took turns tying tourniquets on a chunky piece of latex standing in for a human limb.
Pete Anderson of the Orleans Citizens Forum said the community response has been overwhelming, with monthly courses filling up within hours of being announced. Last week, he said additional training sessions would be held April 10 and May 8 at 3:30 p.m. in the police department's community room, but these may be full by the time of publication. For more information, and to learn about the need for donations to keep the program going, go to orleanscitizensforum.org/