Stop the Bleed: Students learn to act fast in emergencies

  • Exsanguination — severe or fatal loss of blood — can occur within a matter of minutes. Northfield EMS paramedic Erik Davidson demonstrates to students at Pioneer Valley Regional School the safe amount of blood loss using 2-liter soda bottles. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School students lined up on different sides of the room, with one half “injured” and the other half trying to apply proper pressure or a tourniquet within 30 seconds of their “arrival to the scene,” during the Stop the Bleed lesson on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • Pioneer Valley Regional School student Stephanie Mercorelli volunteers to have a tourniquet demonstrated on her arm during the Stop the Bleed presentation Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • Alina Cecunjanin, a sophomore at Pioneer Valley Regional School, practices proper tourniquet application on a classmate during the Stop the Bleed lesson on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

  • Erik Davidson, a paramedic with Northfield EMS and a paramedic technician at Milford Regional Medical Center, talks with students in Pioneer Valley Regional School’s intro to medicine and emergency care class as part of the Stop the Bleed campaign on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/ZACK DELUCA

Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2019 10:42:42 PM
Modified: 12/5/2019 10:42:31 PM

NORTHFIELD — Pioneer Valley Regional School students learned to be prepared for an emergency situation inside the school or out as part of the national Stop the Bleed campaign.

The campaign, which began in the wake of the Dec. 14, 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., teaches students and civilians how to reduce blood loss during emergency situations like school shootings.

Erik Davidson, a paramedic with Northfield EMS and paramedic technician at Milford Regional Medical Center, worked with students in Pioneer’s intro to medicine and emergency care class Wednesday morning.

As Davidson spoke to the classroom, he noted school shootings can be a difficult topic. Likewise, students admitted such situations can be “scary” to talk about.

“It’s obviously a sensitive subject, especially for people your age,” Davidson said to the students.

Still, Davidson said it’s essential that students be prepared. Young adults may witness serious injuries occur, be it in a shooting or car accident, in their schools, in their communities or in their homes.

Learning how to immediately address and treat injuries is the best way to save lives, Davidson said. He referenced data from the FBI that cited deaths from blood loss in the 1999 Columbine school shooting and others.

“If people were able to stop bleeding until EMS got in there, then more people would have survived,” he said.

Putting in practice

Davidson taught students to properly stop bleeding in case of an emergency scenario, using food coloring to create fake blood and real medical supplies. He walked students through scenarios where a large bleeding injury could occur and the simple actions that could help save their own lives, or the life of someone else, if they act quickly.

The first step when assisting an injured person is to call 9-1-1 or get help. The second step is identifying where the bleeding is coming from.

“The No. 1 cause of preventable death after injury is bleeding,” Davidson said.

The third step is compressing the wound to stop the bleeding. Arteries in the arms and thighs, or other bleeding from the extremities, can be treated with the application of a tourniquet a few inches above the injury. A tourniquet must be applied tight enough to block blood flow to the wounded area, and can only be used on extremities.

Students practiced applying tourniquets on classmates, treating treat faux wounds as quickly as possible. Davidson said emergency medical technicians (EMTs) try to apply tourniquets within 30 seconds of reaching an injured person.

Exsanguination — severe or fatal loss of blood — can occur within minutes. Davidson demonstrated the safe amount of blood loss using 2-liter soda bottles poured onto a blanket. The average person has four to six liters of blood in his or her body, roughly the amount in the two soda bottles. A person can also go into shock after losing just one quarter of their blood, he said.

Israeli combat gauze, a specially designed first-aid device, can be used for to apply pressure as a bandage and tourniquet. It was invented by an Israeli military medic, and is now used by military services and EMTs around the world, Davidson said. The gauze is sold at Army Barracks Inc. in West Springfield.

Wounds to the neck, groin or armpits should be treated with pressure and not a tourniquet, Davidson said. These areas are treated as “packing sites,” where gauze or bandages should be pushed tightly into the wound and held to capture and stop the bleeding.

Training bystanders

At least 177 of America’s schools have experienced a shooting over the last 10 years, according to a report from CNN. Another report states that in the first 46 weeks of 2019, there were 45 school shootings. Of those, 32 were at facilities serving kindergarten through 12th grade.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the Stop the Bleed campaign is intended to encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before help arrives. No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene.

The lessons learned through Stop the Bleed are applicable to nearly any trauma-related injury. Davidson said he was inspired to become a medical professional after witnessing a car accident outside his school as a student.

“I ran out and took care of bleeding and the injury management of one of my closest friends, probably saving her life,” Davidson said. “From then on, I kind of knew this was my calling.”

Davidson now has more than 20 years’ experience as an EMT, 10 years of which he has spent as a paramedic. He went into the Army after high school, serving as a combat medic for about four years. He has also provided disaster relief across the nation and abroad, including during Hurricane Irene in 2011.

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