Let’s be honest, I have been writing this blog to help you prepare for an active shooter. I have covered many issues up to this point, including what medical supplies will be needed, but today’s blog post deals specifically with preparing for a mass casualty incident. Tomorrow, I will cover where you can get training if you do not already have people trained to respond.
As I described yesterday, if an active shooter gets past your defenses, it will probably take 10-20 minutes before the first ambulance will arrive. Your house of worship should put together the needed items that may save lives when there may be multiple injuries. These will likely save lives if an active shooting takes place in your church.
While we do not want to think about it, we need to ask ourselves how we could save more than one or two people after an active shooter finishes their cowardly act. We likely will have bleeding, shock, and major confusion. Some people may be sitting, staring into space, not even knowing they are injured. Some may even walk around in a daze, or they may start helping others, not even knowing they are injured. There will probably be a lot of crying and/or moaning. We will see blood, smell gunpowder, and we may hear ringing in our ears from the gunshots. We may even see an arterial bleed, where blood is shooting out of an arm or a leg (see this video [caution, graphic images]. How do we manage these injuries? What supplies do we need? What can we do?
Believe it or not, there are some basic supplies that can be obtained from the local retail store. These items could make a huge difference. Let’s start off with something that is super-cheap and extremely effective; sanitary napkins. Sanitary napkins can be used to absorb blood, and to help in the clotting process until professional help arrives at the church. Remember, if it bleeds, cover it! You may have to add some heavy pressure, depending on how bad it is bleeding, but sanitary napkins are great for stopping bleeding.
You should also consider purchasing (white) towels at the local retail store. These towels can also be used to cover bleeding which will assist in clotting the blood. If you feel led, purchase multiple size, including kitchen towels, face towels, and bath towels. Choose an appropriate amount that equals about half of your congregation. If at all possible, get them in a color that bleach will not affect it if added to the wash.
You may might want to purchase a supply of Coban, Ace bandages, or similar types of wraps. When tending to arm and leg injuries, the sanitary pads, or the towels might be able to be held in place by this type of wrap, thereby freeing up a person that can help someone else while monitoring the person with the wrap on.
We also want to make sure we do not forget blankets. People will be in shock. They will need their feet elevated, and they will need a blanket to help regulate their body temperature. The blanket does not need to be extra heavy, or even thick, but it does need to be thick enough to help the body to regulate its temperature.
While not typically something you can get at the local store, you should consider tourniquets. You can purchase proper medical tourniquets, or you can purchase materials that can be used as a makeshift tourniquet. If a makeshift tourniquet, the material should (whenever possible) be at least an 1-1/2 wide, and made of strong durable material that won’t break. It should applied to provide steady pressure above the wound. If needed, a belt will work, however a commercial tourniquet would be better, because they are designed to cause minimal damage. It is important to note that whenever a tourniquet is put on, that you should mark the victims forehead with a clearly visible “T” so that first responder’s know that there is a tourniquet applied somewhere on that persons body. It is best marked with a permanent marker (if possible) so that it will not wipe off if a half-alert patient rubs their forehead. Contrary to the way we were taught years ago, they now suggest that the tourniquet should not be loosened (to allow blood flow) for at least two hours.
When you get these supplies, you will need to keep them clean, but ready to use at the same time. I personally suggest that items such as the towels and blankets should be put through the washer and dryer to remove any contaminants that they may have picked up during manufacturing, transportation, or sitting on the store shelves. If they won’t bleed color, use some bleach in the wash as well as the laundry soap. When they are completely dry, seal them in bags so that contaminants are less likely to absorbed into the linens. A clear bag is best, so you can see what is in each bag when seconds count.
Tomorrow, I will discuss places that you can get basic to advanced first aid training. Until then, may God keep you safe, … Mark