has happened. The worst day of your life is starting to unfold in front of you.
You can feel the warm blood running down your leg as a hundred thoughts start
running through your brain. Perhaps you fade back to your police academy “fight
for life” scenario. You think about your FTO or firearms instructor screaming
at you, “Finish the fight. Never give up. Do whatever it takes to win.”
dig down deep to unleash your inner warrior and tell yourself, “I will win.” You
think of your loved ones and the promise you made to come home and hug them at
the end of your shift. Your thoughts are interrupted with more bullets hitting
around you, as you are on the ground near your police car. You return fire,
looking for any part of the perpetrator’s body that you can hit. You are trying
to get up, but your leg is not responding and as you are fighting for your life,
blood is rapidly pumping out of your leg.
vision is focused on what is in front of you. Your mind, body and soul are all
about what will happen in the next few seconds. You think about all the time at
the range. The day you shot a perfect score. The countless hours of dry firing
you have done over the years to eliminate your flinch when the gun goes off. The
hundreds of times you have cleaned your weapon to make sure it wouldn’t fail
you when you needed it.
take a couple deep breaths and line your front sight up ready to engage the threat
rapidly approaching you. Your mind starts replaying what you just saw. You
stopped this driver for a burnt-out tail light. A man gets out of a truck as
soon as you and he come to a stop; now he is advancing on you with a high-powered
rifle and he starts unleashing bullets on you. One of those bullets causes you
to crumple to the ground. You ask yourself, “What did I do to this guy that
made him want to kill me?”
have felt like minutes as you align the sights and press the trigger straight
back. The aggressor drops out of view with a loud thud. You have won that fight
but now there is another one—just as important—the fight to save your own life.
has been about 45 seconds since you called out the traffic stop and dispatch
doesn’t even know shots have been fired and you are bleeding to death. You
reach over with your blood covered hand and scream into the radio. “Shots
fired, officer down, I need aid!” Your training takes over and you begin to
think of other things to tell dispatch and your fellow officers. Your mind is
racing as the pool of blood underneath you is growing larger and larger. You
have a minute or two before you start losing all motor function and start
you carry on your person is going to most likely make the difference if you
survive until the “cavalry” arrives or if you bleed out and die while they are
en route. Your life is in your own hands and how you train or have trained for
this moment could be the difference between you living or dying. This is not
the time to try to figure out how to make a tourniquet. Remember, your fine
motor skills are about gone, so trying to “MacGyver” a tourniquet out of your
paracord bracelet, radio cord, shoe lace, or inner patrol belt are useless. You
are going to lose consciousness soon unless you stop that bleeding fast.
train for these types of situations throughout our career but when it comes to
actual self medical care, and what we can do to help ourselves, law enforcement
in general has been unprepared and for the most part, pretended it is not going
to happen. If you are shooting bullets and bullets are being shot at you, most
likely there is going to be blood at some point.
am a believer in the warrior mindset and preach it to all those with whom I
work. However, the end game is this: If you run out of blood, you are going to
die. We need to know how to stop life threatening bleeding effectively and need
to carry the tools to do this on our patrol uniform. You should be carrying a
tourniquet and a one-handed application tourniquet at that.
is a device, preferably one with a windlass, which is effective at stopping
bleeding on an extremity wound. A windlass is a nautical term that means a
mechanical advantage. How do you know a tourniquet is working? The bleeding has
is absolutely critical that you carry a tourniquet that can be applied one-handed.
The majority of police officers work alone whether in rural or urban areas and in
preparing for a “worse case” scenario, you need to be able to place a
tourniquet on yourself if you are shot in the arm and that arm is not
functioning. The military carries tourniquets because they are effective and
extremity wounds are the number one cause of preventable deaths in the last
difference between the military and law enforcement when it comes to tourniquet
application tactics and techniques is significant. Military units always travel
in groups. Even the Special Forces communities have element sizes between two
and four operators for the most covert/dangerous missions. There are almost
always extra hands to help apply a tourniquet if one is needed.
majority of law enforcement officers work alone and their backup response time varies
from 30 seconds to 30 minutes depending on where you work in the United States.
Again, in a worst case scenario, there are no extra hands to help apply the
tourniquet. You need to be proficient and skilled in self-care tourniquet
application so if need be, you can stop any life-threatening extremity
bleeding, get back in the fight, and finish it for good.
reality of waiting for aid to get there is not reality at all. You need to act
fast when you see life threatening bleeding because seconds count. The size and
severity of the wound is going to affect how fast your tourniquet needs to be. You
want to be able to place a tourniquet in around 30 seconds to a minute,
depending on where the wound is located.
applying the tourniquet with one hand will have an effect on how quickly it is placed
and stops the bleeding. Training should be done in all types of environments in
real-life settings. The first thing you should do is invest in a practice
tourniquet with which you and your partners can train. You don’t want to use the
one you carry, because it will wear out over time and if you really need it one
day, you don’t want it to fail.
should train to apply your tourniquet blind folded, in low light, in a prone
position, in a sitting position, on your back, after doing a sprint work, etc. This
training should be conducted numerous times during the year. You can practice
tourniquet application at the range, during active shooter training, during
officer down drills, immediate action drills, etc.
this day and age, we are being faced with unique and complicated public safety
events. We have seen frequent police ambushes, mass casualty/active shooter scenarios,
countless school/workplace shootings, and domestic terrorism over the last two
years alone. All first responders should be trained to respond effectively to
these types of calls, which we now are faced with and read about in the news
across our nation almost daily.
if you don’t think these types of events could happen where you work, one
traffic stop could be all it takes to find yourself fighting for your life. How
you prepared for that moment could be the difference between a yellow blanket
over your body or a phone call to your loved ones that you are coming home.
Chris Foreman has been with the Chelan
County Sheriff’s Office for 11 years and Sergeant of the Columbia River Drug Task
Force for the last three years. He is the Element Leader for the Chelan County
Regional SWAT Team, and co-owner and instructor of Combat First Aid.