The idea to equip police officers with first aid kits containing tourniquets and special combat gauzes developed about six months ago.
Dr. John Holcombe is the director of Memorial Hermann Hospital’s Texas Trauma Institute. He says he and the director of the Houston Fire Department’s medical emergency services, David Persse, had just equipped ambulances with tourniquets.
“And we started looking at what’s going with mass casualties, mass shootings, the Boston episode and on and on. And it became very clear in our minds that we wanted to have the police officers in Houston to have the same capability to be able to respond not only to individual casualties but to potential mass casualties.”
The kits were designed by police officers and fit inside the bulletproof vest patrol officers wear. Both the tourniquets and the gauze have the purpose of stopping bleeding. The gauze contains a hemostatic agent, which helps the body clot the blood in a wound.
Holcombe says both are designed to save lives on the battlefield.
“And the way you transition that knowledge into the civilian world is, No. 1, putting them on ambulances and helicopters, that’s important. And that’s been done in the Houston area. But also, put them on police officers, who obviously with 5,000 officers and HFD are all over the place and out on the streets and closest to the point of injury.”
Sgt. Bryan Garrison heads HPD’s tactical training unit. He says these kits are a great benefit for Houston police officers, who are often the first on the scene of a crime or accident.
“The primary cause of death from traumatic injury is blood loss, and when dealing with traumatic injury, whether it’s s a gunshot wound, some type of explosion or even a car accident, if there’s any large amount of arterial bleeding, you can bleed to death in two minutes. And that two minutes is crucial to stop the bleeding.”
He says before Memorial Hermann’s donation, between 200 and 300 officers were carrying tourniquets and combat gauzes. And he says there have been several incidents where they saved lives, including in the case of an officer who was working an extra job in a country bar.
“Female stabs another female. She hit the femoral artery in her leg, and that woman would have bled out had he not had a tourniquet and knew how to use it.”
In anticipation of the donation, at least a thousand officers have been trained in the use of the kits so far.
Garrison says by August of this year, all roughly 2,500 patrol officers will be trained and carry kits with them. And by August of next year, the rest of the 5,000 HPD officers will receive them.