You can save lives by learning 'Stop the Bleed'

National awareness campaign teaches what to do until medical help arrives

Erica Albaugh (right), Stop the Bleed trainer and Brandy Hennessy, who both work in the Emergency Department at UnityPoi
Erica Albaugh (right), Stop the Bleed trainer and Brandy Hennessy, who both work in the Emergency Department at UnityPoint St. Luke’s Hospital, demonstrate how to tie a tourniquet at a Stop the Bleed training at the Helen G. Nassif Center for Women’s & Children’s Health at UnityPoint St. Luke’s in Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, July 10, 2019. The class has been taught to around 4,000 people in the area, with backgrounds ranging from medical professions to maintenance employees. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

In the aftermath of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and the Boston Marathon bombing, the White House launched a national awareness campaign in 2015 to train people how to better help in case of a medical emergency.

Stop the Bleed encourages individuals to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in an emergency before professional medical help arrives.

“A lot of the people injured in the Boston Marathon bombing died because of hemorrhage from the traumatic amputations that occurred,” said Sue Mincks, critical care paramedic with UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Lifeguard Air Ambulance in Cedar Rapids.

“If someone had done something as simple as put a tourniquet around their limb, they would not have bled to death.”

If a person’s femoral artery or another major artery is injured, a person can bleed out and die in a matter of minutes. “It keeps pumping blood out and you can die,” Mincks said.

Several area hospitals, including UnityPoint-St. Luke’s Hospital, Mercy Medical Center and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, are offering Stop the Bleed classes to their staff. Corridor hospitals and fire departments occasionally offer Stop the Bleed classes that are open to the public. Anyone can go online to review training videos and buy gauze pads and tourniquets to have on hand in case of an emergency.


Stop the Bleed training teaches a bystander to:

• Ensure their own safety.

• Call 911.

• Find the bleeding injury.

• Cover the wound and apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding.

• Use a tourniquet.

• Pack the wound with gauze or clean cloth and apply direct pressure.

“If applying pressure fails to stop the bleeding, you need to start packing the wound,” Mincks said.


“If you have a T-shirt available, tear it into strips and literally push it into the wound with your finger to pack it and stop the bleeding. Any dirt or debris on the shirt will be cleaned out by a surgeon at the hospital.

“If packing the wound fails to stop the bleeding, the next step will be using a tourniquet. You will need to put the tourniquet on very tight to stop the bleeding.” Stop the Bleed and B-Con (bleeding control) kits are available for about $50 from AED Brands,, Grainger Industrial Supply, Master Medical Equipment and other sources. The kits include a tourniquet, sterile dressing, pads and gloves.

Tourniquets that can be self-applied with one hand, based on a design used by military personnel in combat, are available from Amazon and other sources for as little as $10.

Mincks said mass casualty events can be overwhelming for first responders, making quick action by bystanders all the more important.

“A single ambulance responding to an incident could have as few as three trained personnel,” she said.

“If there are multiple people injured, it can be quite overwhelming.”

Zach Hickman, a battalion chief with the Iowa City Fire Department, said attitudes have changed with regard to training ordinary citizens to provide medical assistance in emergency situations.

“Back in the day, there was a hesitation to teach a non-emergency responder how to use a tourniquet because there was a concern about the long-term effects of using them,” Hickman said. “Now, there is a belief that it is important for people to learn how to use tourniquets properly.”


While incidents like the Boston Marathon bombing and Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting might seem rare, hunting accidents and farm-related injuries are very real possibilities.

“The Iowa Department of Public Health would like to see every farmer carry a tourniquet with them when they are working out in a field,” said Dr. Nora

Royer, medical director of the trauma program at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids.


“If they have a terrible farming accident with a tractor or combine, it could take time for people to find them and know that they have been injured,” she

said. “If they have a tourniquet with them, it could save their life.”

It’s easy to see how Stop the Bleed kits could come in handy in case of a car accident or other emergency.

“Every police officer in our community carries a tourniquet with them. Every school is working on getting Stop the Bleed kits,” Royer said.

“Mercy Medical Center is working to have Stop the Bleed kits next to AEDs (automated external defibrillators) in the hospital. We also will have a tourniquet at each one of those locations.”

Terrence Funke, trauma program coordinator at Mercy, would like to see Stop the Bleed information added to basic first aid training.

“Part of CPR classes is some minor first aid training,” Funke said. “I would encourage Stop the Bleed training as part of that so you are bundling it all together at one time. It works really well for employers who are giving people time off the job to go to these classes.”

Royer said even young children can understand the basics of Stop the Bleed.

“I have trained my children, and people have demonstrated that a child as young as 5 can apply a tourniquet as effectively as an adult,” she said. “As long as you know the technique to use a tourniquet made with Velcro, it can be applied successfully.”

And, just in case you’re wondering, Iowa’s Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection for individuals who deliver emergency assistance. The entire law can be found online.

Find online training videos and purchase Stop the Bleed materials:




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