Just because we have tools that can answer the predicament of violence doesn’t mean we should not also have the basic lifesaving skills and equipment to keep someone alive until medical professionals arrive. I will go over the most common prevention methods to keep a victim from dying, what minimalist medical equipment (MME) you should have on your person, and where to find knowledgeable tactical medicine instructors.
Why Basic Medical Care Is Vital
Many variables exist during a violent encounter and its aftermath. An impact from a blunt object, the puncture of a blade, or a penetrating bullet wound may all cause instant death. These may be due to an instant lack of functioning of the Central Nervous System (CNS) in the brain, commonly found in victims with a headshot wound. Other instantly fatal injuries can include puncture or penetration of the heart or major arteries (femoral, brachial, carotid and radial).
Even if these wounds are apparent, you should still attempt to render aid to the victim, especially if they are conscious, breathing or have a pulse. Only a small percentage of people survive a gunshot wound (GSW) to the head, but it is possible, as seen here. The human body is extremely resilient, and simple measures can give the victim a chance of survival. Applying direct pressure at the point of injury may sustain life until medical professionals arrive.
As I saw when I was deployed overseas, one of the biggest killers on the battlefield — as well as of victims of GSWs or knife punctures here at home — is blood loss. At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom and America’s first experience with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), many survivors of the initial explosion bled out due to lack of formal training and lack of tourniquets on the troops. Many lives may have been saved if basic pressure to the wound had been applied.
The second is the infamous tourniquet, which also comes in a variety of brands and models. It was originally considered a “last option” tool if blood loss to an extremity could not be stopped by direct pressure. The thought process was that the limb the tourniquet was used on would most likely have to be amputated because the tourniquet created so much pressure and actually cut off blood flow. But during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, military doctors saw that many troops who had tourniquets applied in the field did not lose their limbs, even after having the tourniquet in place for over two hours. Therefore while deployed in the Marine Corps, I was required to have a tourniquet in my Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK). In a pinch, anything that can cinch down above the wound will work, such as the belt off your pants or the strapping used to tie down equipment in a pick-up truck.
Where To Carry It
Now that more people are carrying MME, I see many bulky rigs that are unrealistic to carry unless you wear “tactical” pants with cargo pockets or a military-style war belt. Thankfully, some companies are designing methods for you to carry all your basic MME on your person. Rogue Gunfighter makes an ankle rig called the No-Vis Ankle Medical Kit that completely conceals under any standard pair of pants. In this piece of padded nylon, the user can carry a tourniquet, pressure dressing, hemostatic agent, NPA tube, trauma gloves, and trauma shears. It doesn’t require any specific type of pants and is easy to conceal as well as access. The NVAMK can be bought “stripped” so the user can put whatever after-market medical gear they want in it, or buy it with items pre-packed.
Concerned that this kit does not include gloves for protection from blood-borne pathogens? Down and dirty “street medicine” is just that. If you need this piece of gear to be as minimalist as possible, that’s the chance you take. Of course, thin Nitrile gloves weigh almost nothing and take up very little room, so you may choose to stick a pair of them in your pants pocket and another in your vehicle glove box. Either way, with its unobtrusive and streamlined nature, the EDC kit is a great piece of gear to have whenever and wherever you go.
Who Should Teach Me?
Just as there’s a lot of medical gear you can buy, there are many instructors you can seek out and learn from. But as I stated in my article Evolving as Defensive Shooters, you should look for an instructor who’s evolving with the times and is giving accurate and up-to-date information. This is vital when it comes to the ever-changing medical world, where new and more efficient methods and procedures are emerging.
Along with that, train in context to what reflects your everyday life. Paying to attend a medical course that shows you how to apply basic combat medicine while clearing out a building when you actually work in a cubicle nine to five might be a bit of a stretch. Seek out a medical professional who reflects your lifestyle needs and isn’t looking to sell you the next cure-all product. If the instructor is serious about providing you with essential information, they may point you in a direction to obtain medical products from inexpensive wholesale distributors.
Even attending a quality CPR course can’t hurt and will make you more knowledgeable about the human body, especially important if you’re a parent. People I personally recommend to my students are Bill Lewitt of Tactical Development Group, Robert Smith of the Direct Action Medical Network, and Caleb Causey of Lone Star Medics. Many other competent medical professionals exist who can instruct you on the basics of casualty care on the street, but I know and trust these three from experience.
If you take personal defense seriously as an armed professional or law-abiding concealed-carrying citizen, knowing basic casualty care and how to use MME are absolutely essential. Just because you have the lethal tools to cause harm on a violent attacker doesn’t mean you or someone near you won’t be wounded. Knowing how to apply basic pressure as well as other skills may mean the difference between life and death. A cautionary example is that if someone gets cuts only a quarter of an inch below the skin along the radial artery (which lies near your wrist), they will lose consciousness in 30 seconds, and death will occur in two minutes if left untreated. You may be the only one on scene during the aftermath of a violent attack — do you have the skills to preserve life? As the old adage states, “If you know how to make holes, you should know how to plug them too.”