AUSTIN, Texas — Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) and firefighters explained how to help save a life during mass casualty situations through the "Stop The Bleed" course on Monday.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, last year, the U.S. saw more mass shootings than days, with 647 occurrences. Its data also shows that this year we've seen nearly 40 mass shooting before January is over.
"So there's been quite an uptick in gun violence, in particular downtown, just in the last couple of years," said Courtney Meyer, a clinical specialist with ATCEMS.
Meyer and Cpt. Shannon Koesterer said they can not stop gun violence, but they can stop survivable deaths.
"I run a shooting every single weekend," Meyer said. "I ran one just Sunday morning. It's pretty prevalent and because we have so much foot traffic downtown and we have all these major festivals and all these people, we really want to force multiply."
The department is force multiplying by training people to be immediate responders, through its "Stop The Bleed" course.
After-action reviews of many mass casualty incidents have consistently determined that some fatalities could have been prevented using simple and effective bleeding control techniques immediately following the injury.
"The Pulse nightclub shooting, 49 people lost their lives that day and 14 were deemed survivable by the ME's office," Meyer said. "No one should die from a gunshot wound to the arm because that's something that we can manage at a very basic level."
The life-saving training can get graphic. If someone has a life-threatening hemorrhage and is bleeding out through a penetrating injury like a stab or gunshot wound in the extremities, medics say first apply pressure.
If the person is still bleeding out after continuously applying pressure, use a tourniquet but make sure to continue to apply pressure.
"It's always has to be above the wound," Meyer said. "So this first pull, that initial pull is your money shot that's going to give you all the tension you need to make this effective, bring this around the tourniquet, and then you're going to turn this bar."
Meyer said higher and tighter is always the way to go. She added that you should never remove it unless professionals say so. If it is removed before help arrives, Meyer said it could cause more harm than good. She added that you should never use a makeshift tourniquet, as it could also cause more harm.
If you don't have a tourniquet, Meyer said pack the wound with gauze or something like a clean shirt.
"The point of this is to not let that pressure leave," Meyer said. "So you're never going to pull a finger out. You're just going to interchange fingers. So you take a little piece of your gauze, kind of roll it up in a little ball and then guide that finger into where that bleeding is, and then you just continue to rapidly alternate fingers, applying deep pressure in that wound, and you kind of want to pack the entire cavity."
Once the cavity is full, keep the pressure on until help arrives. Meyer said releasing pressure to early will cause the wound to start bleeding again, undoing all of your work.
If someone is has a penetrating wound on their chest, abdomen or back, Meyer says apply a commercial chest shield.
"Realistically, you're likely not going to use this training in an act of attack," she said. "It's really going to be at home where you or your loved one is injured and you have to intervene while EMS is on the way."
ATCEMS held its first "Stop The Bleed" course over the weekend with LGTBQ bar owners and community members.
Medics hope to expand the training to other bars as well as mount "stop the bleed" kits on business walls for easy access – and then eventually train the community.
ATCEMS is working on getting a grant to make it all possible.