Preparing for trauma - what cops should have in their first aid kits

Being prepared to treat trauma is becoming the new norm for cops

As a streep cop, I know I need to be prepared to handle trauma wounds. In the interest of being fully prepared, I interviewed Dr. Fabrice Czarnecki about what items I should keep in my first aid kit.

According to Dr. Czarnecki, police officers should carry a medical kit specifically designed for penetrating trauma (gunshot wounds and stab wounds).

Low-cost and life saving
A first aid kit can be assembled at a fairly low cost. While it would be a good idea for officers to carry a small kit at all times, they should definitely carry it during high-risk activities, like warrant service and protective detail, and during firearms training (in case of accidental injuries). According to Dr. Czarnecki, contents should include:

  • Two pairs of gloves
  • One or two tourniquets
  • One or two trauma dressings
  • One or two rolls of gauze

Dr. Czarnecki recommends nitrile gloves over latex. Nitrile is more resistant to puncture and chemicals. They also do not cause the allergic reactions that individuals may experience with latex.

A tourniquet is a tightly wrapped bandage that stops the flow of blood from an artery (usually a limb) by applying pressure. Tourniquets are safe and effective in trained hands -- if applied to an extremity for less than one hour. Tourniquets alone could save 60 percent of all the preventable deaths from combat trauma. Dr. Czarnecki's preferred tourniquet is the triangular bandage (usually 37 x 37 x 52 inches). It is cheap, lightweight and easy to deploy. A lot of people are scared to apply tourniquets, but people are increasingly recognizing their critical life-saving importance.

Trauma dressings
The key here is the ability to apply pressure to the wound, rather than just covering it and absorbing the blood. Dr. Czarnecki recommends the Cederroth Bloodstopper, sold in most public safety catalogs.

Rolls of gauze
The gauze should be a sterile, disorganized conforming bandage type, like Kerlix bandage rolls (four inch wide preferred).

Patrol vehicle or team medical kit
A larger medical kit should be kept in cars or made readily available during other high-risk activities. Suggested contents include:

  • Two (or more) medical kits, wrapped separately, and used only for penetrating traumas
  • Laerdal Pocket Mask™
  • Coban™ cohesive bandage (self-adherent)
  • SAM ® splint
  • Xeroform dressing or other non-adherent dressings
  • Bandage strips, tape wound closure
  • 4 x 4 gauze pads
  • Tape
  • Elastic wraps
  • Safety pins
  • Space blankets
  • EMT shears
  • Cold compresses
  • Medications: acetaminophen, ibuprofen, triple antibiotic ointment, aspirin
  • Artificial tears (saline)
  • Antiseptic solution
  • Alcohol gel
  • An AED is recommended to trained officers, if available.

Dr. Czarnecki is the Director of Medical-Legal Research with The Gables Group, Inc., a business intelligence and investigative consultancy based in Miami, FL, and the Director of Training of the Center for Homeland Security Studies, a non-profit corporation conducting training in counter-terrorism and intelligence for domestic law enforcement. He previously was an emergency physician of the Ambroise Pare Hospital, Boulogne, France.


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