Lessons from Las Vegas

The recent mass casualty event in Las Vegas has implications for regular citizens.

Many stories have emerged from Las Vegas of bystanders taking courageous and life saving action to help those around them. People instinctively acted as first responders, applying makeshift tourniquets and improvised bandages at the scene and quickly moving the wounded into vehicles for transport to hospitals. Those actions saved an estimated 20 to 30 lives. Those bystanders in Las Vegas understood that they were the only option to help, and vital link to the wounded’s survival.

The main cause of injury and death in Las Vegas, was penetrating trauma form high velocity gunshots. For external bleeding injuries where an artery is severed, bleeding control is essential within minutes from injury in order to save the injured persons life.

What can regular citizens do?

Take a training course in bleeding control. Training classes on bleeding control for ordinary citizens are being offered at Hospitals, Fire Departments and private organizations. The American college of Surgeon’s website,www.bleedingcontrol.org has a searchable listing of classes on bleeding control. The courses are aimed towards empowering bystanders to provide lifesaving care during intentional mass casualty events.

It is important for bystanders to understand the role of professional first responders in intentional attacks. Those professionals are highly trained and skilled, but situational challenges on the ground can slow their arrival. Bystanders are first on the scene, and those closest to someone with life threatening injuries are best positioned to help.

Stay alert and be aware of your environment and surroundings

Keep your eyes up, and your ears open. Mentally plan ahead, visualize escape routes, and locate exits. Trust your instincts and move quickly and decisively when needed. The line between survival and catastrophe can be very thin in emergency situations.

As awareness on the importance of controlling blood loss in emergency situations has grown, more public facilities and private businesses are placing bleeding control equipment on-site. And more regular citizens are keeping tourniquets, pressure bandages and hemostatic bandages in accessible locations, in their homes and vehicles. You should know that medical equipment is available and how to use it.

If you don’t currently have anything, consider purchasing a trauma kit, or an individual first aid kit (IFAK), which includes a tourniquet and hemostatic bandages for your vehicle and home. The cost of these life saving pieces of equipment is low, especially when considering the potential upside.

The Government is getting involved too

Launched in October 2015 by the White House, Stop the Bleed is a national campaign and call to action, to encourage regular citizens and bystanders to become trained, equipped and ready to help in emergency situations. The Hartford Consensus , a think tank of trauma surgeons, EMS and Law Enforcement professionals, created new guidelines for enhancing the survivability of a mass shooting event, in the wake of Sandy Hook shooting. What the Las Vegas shooting has made clear, trauma experts have said, is that early efforts to teach and encourage the public to help the wounded in mass casualty emergencies should be expanded.