By Warren Wilson
Trouble doesn’t take a day off.
Over the course of the past 37 years, I’ve found myself at a myriad of shooting ranges. They have been as simple as a small field with a dirt mound berm and as elaborate as a massive indoor range with adjustable lighting and turning/moving targets. Regardless of the size or capability of your firearms training facility, the one thing that you must have on hand is a decent first-aid kit.
I have two kits at our facility; one is a small, general first-aid kit to treat the minor injuries that happen often and a dedicated Gunshot Wound kit that I’ll get into later.
Neither of these kits has to be large to be effective. Probably the most common injury I’ve seen at the range is “slide bite,” especially when officers transition from their dominant hand to their non-dominant hand. Thankfully, the worst injury we’ve had was a piece of a bullet jacket that came back off of a steel target and embedded itself in an officer’s forearm.
Ask yourself, “Are the officers of my department capable of dressing a wound, stopping bleeding, or treating for possible shock until EMS arrives?” You’re fortunate if you have a nice indoor police range located in your jurisdiction and in a major metropolitan area. However, most ranges that I’ve been to are a considerable distance from emergency medical services, and most are difficult to locate—usually being tucked away from the general population due to the noise and flying bullets.
This is where training enters the picture. Every officer needs to have some form of self-rescue equipment within quick reach and they need to know how to use it. When there’s a bullet in your leg, it’s certainly not the time to read the directions on how to apply a C.A.T.® tourniquet!
Training should include how to apply and use the C.A.T. ® tourniquet, how to apply a hemostatic agent, how to properly dress a wound, and the various locations of pressure points. We’re not trying to make officers into Paramedics; we’re trying to keep them alive until the Paramedics arrive. My department incorporated a self-rescue segment into our patrol rifle certification program. During the class, each officer put a C.A.T. ® tourniquet on themselves (without tightening), first with their dominant hand only and then with their non-dominant hand only (we have these excellent devices in each of the self-rescue kits in all of our patrol cars). Then we went over each piece of equipment in the self-rescue kits in the patrol cars. Instruction was provided to describe in detail what they are for, what they can do, what they cannot do, and how to use them.
Designated Gunshot Wound Kit
The designated gunshot wound kit at my department’s range has only the items that may be needed to control the bleeding of a gunshot wound and nothing else, no Band-Aids®, no alcohol pads, nothing unnecessary. It has a pair of EMT shears to cut away clothing, a hemostatic agent, some 4”X4” gauze pads, a “Bloodstopper®” bandage, a gauze roll, and a C.A.T. tourniquet. It’s simple and small, but effective.
It is fortunate that the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) offers two classes along these lines: “Range Medical Emergencies and the Firearms Instructor” and “Self-Aid and Buddy-Aid.” Your training for your officers doesn’t have to be that formal. As an addendum to the information we gave our officers in the Patrol Rifle Certification Course, I also mandated that they watch a gunshot wound first-aid DVD and counted that toward their annual State-mandated CPT hours. Your local EMS or hospital emergency department may also be willing to put on a short course for your officers. Any training you can give your officers along these lines is better than no training at all.
One other thing that I haven’t done yet, but plan to, is to incorporate this training into the firearms training. My plan is to have them shoot a portion of a course of fire, take cover, apply a C.A.T. ® Tourniquet to themselves (not tightened), and then continue shooting. I want to instill in them the idea that just because they are wounded, they are still able to treat themselves, stay in the fight, and/or reach a position of cover/safety from which they can be rescued.
Take a look at your firearms training facility and ask yourself, “Do I have what’s necessary to treat an injured officer?” Evaluate your needs for emergency medical treatment and train your officers how to treat bullet wounds, and you’ll be prepared in the event of an unfortunate, but possible accident. . PM
Mike Burg is a 38-year veteran of the Rittman Police Department in Ohio. He has been a Range Officer and EMT since 1981 and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy – 168th Session
1. Bullets and Band-Aids® often come together during range training, hopefully resulting in just minor injuries.
Several excellent DVDs can provide real-world training to officers when it comes to treating a gunshot wound on the range until paramedics arrive.
2. A minor first-aid kit and a major first-aid kit should both be provided at your firearms training range.