Program at Thomas Sumter Academy trains civilians to save lives

Stop the Bleed prepares non-EMS for shooting event, other emergencies

Students at Thomas Sumter Academy practice using tourniquets on dummy limbs Wednesday afternoon.
Students at Thomas Sumter Academy practice using tourniquets on dummy limbs Wednesday afternoon.

With an increase in mass casualties across the U.S., Sumter County EMS is doing its part to help civilians prepare for the unexpected by starting a local version of a national initiative, the Stop the Bleed program.

The goal of the program is to teach civilians to treat trauma after an emergency event - before professional medical personnel arrives - to save as many lives as possible.

Stop the Bleed is an initiative of the American College of Surgeons and the Hartford Consensus - organizations aiming to educate the public on bleeding control in case of an emergency - and was introduced to Sumter County by two EMTs who served as combat medics in Afghanistan.

"I trained with equipment like this and have seen it work," said Corey Outen, an advanced EMT who served in the National Guard.

These kits will allow people to be proactive instead of reactive, he said.

The most important item in the trauma packs are the combat application tourniquets, he said.

Applying a tourniquet can extend a person's life expectancy from minutes to hours if he has a life-threatening bleed, Outen said.

A bleeding control kit holds eight individual bleeding control packs that each contain: scissors, gloves, a combat application tourniquet, gauze, a permanent marker, emergency trauma dressing bandage and an information card with details and visual depictions of how each item is used. The kit also includes a transport litter - a wheel-less transportation device - used to move patients.

The local EMS department launched its program at Thomas Sumter Academy on Thursday, when the school received a bleeding control kit from Life Net of South Carolina - a medical air transportation company.

"This is the type of training that everybody needs," said Frank Martin III, head of school at Thomas Sumter Academy.

Based on most recent events, it is extremely important to educate staff and students on how to handle those situations, he said.

Some people may not want to admit that events such as mass shootings are possible, but you don't want to be helpless in those situations, Martin said.

"We live in a world where you have to think about this," said Paul Sorrells, assistant headmaster. "Fear paralyzes you."

The response might not be perfect, but at least a person will have an idea of what to do if he has had training, he said.

During a presentation in the school's auditorium, the students were shown how to identify a life-threatening bleed and practiced applying tourniquets.

A person needs to have the knowledge and willingness to act during an emergency, said Tracy Caulder, an advanced EMT and former combat medic.

A person can bleed out in three minutes if a major artery is torn, said Kent Hall, assistant director of Sumter County EMS.

One or two techniques could save a person's life, he said.

Just like CPR, Sumter County EMS will push for the public to learn to treat trauma because it can take more than three minutes for first responders to arrive, Hall said.

During mass shooting events, most people die of a gunshot wound to an limb where the bleeding could have been controlled, said Bobby Hingst, director of Sumter County EMS.

The kits and training will also be helpful when treating severe injuries sustained during everyday tasks, he said.

Hall said one trauma kit - which contains eight bleeding control packs - costs about $500.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control Bureau of EMS is working to secure grant funding to provide trauma kits for public schools so Sumter County EMS is trying to get local businesses to sponsor kits for public schools.

Hingst said he would like to see the program also reach local businesses and public areas such as malls in the future.

If something does happen, a trained public could possibly save lives, he said.

"This is the beginning," he said, "of something big."