Why police officers need to carry a tactical medical kit — and what items to carry
These supplies and kits will help you save lives when time is of the essence
By Police1 BrandFocus Staff
The nature of police response has changed. When a 911 call comes in, officers need to be prepared to face any number of situations. In addition to car wrecks, attempted suicides and other calls where medical intervention may be required, officers now must be prepared to face an active shooting incident. Police officers are often the first on scene and may need to respond to trauma in the critical few minutes before EMS arrives.
Whether for a life-threatening gunshot or stab wound or other critical injury, having basic tactical medical supplies in an officer’s personal first aid kit or the trunk of a patrol vehicle can make the difference between life and death. In some cases, these supplies could end up saving the life of a fellow officer – or the very officer who carries them.
ASSESSING AND RESPONDING TO TRAUMA
Knowing what supplies to use and when is critical. The MARCH mnemonic is an assessment tool for tactical field care, which starts after a threat has been addressed or the casualty is in a safe location. The assessment and treatment priorities focus on the preventable causes of death – the types of wounds or conditions that police officers are most likely to positively affect between a critical medical emergency and the arrival of EMS.
M – Massive Hemorrhage
According to the National Institutes of Health, massive hemorrhage is a major cause of potentially preventable deaths. Better control of bleeding – faster – could improve survival rates by up to 20%.
Massive hemorrhage can be treated in the field with tourniquets and QuikClot/compressed gauze. Here are some battle-tested essentials.
The North American Rescue Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) is a one-handed tourniquet that uses a windlass system to completely stop the flow of blood in an extremity in the event of a traumatic wound with significant bleeding. It was awarded one of the “Top 10 Greatest Inventions” by the U.S. Army and might be the tourniquet that saves your own life in the event of a bullet wound in an extremity.
The Tactical Medical Solutions SOF Tourniquet easily slides over an arm or leg and unclips at the buckle to fit around hard-to-reach areas like a trapped limb.
The top reason a tourniquet can fail is due to slack. The SAM Medical SAM XT Extremity Tourniquet avoids that problem with an innovative buckle auto-locking technology.
For situations where a tourniquet is not the proper tool, such as injuries to the armpits, shoulders, groin, or chest, you need a hemostatic packing dressing to occlude blood flow and control life-threatening hemorrhaging. Z-Medica Z Fold QuikClot Combat Gauze LE is designed specifically for law enforcement to be a compact and effective means of controlling traumatic bleeding. Twelve feet of kaolin-infused gauze are compressed into a pocket- or duty-belt-sized package. Z-Medica QuikClot Combat Gauze Z-fold is packaged in an easy-to-tear, vacuum-sealed pouch.
A – Airway
When massive hemorrhaging has been brought under control, the next step is to make sure the trauma patient’s airway is unobstructed, A sterile, flexible nasopharyngeal airway (NPA) can be inserted in a nare of an alert, or semi- or unconscious patient to help ensure the airway stays open.
R – Respiratory
The next step in the MARCH protocol is to check the patient’s entire torso for penetrating injuries to the chest. An open chest wound can lead to tension pneumothorax – a leak between the chest wall and the lungs – that, if the wound is not sealed, can create a dangerous pressure that can be fatal.
A chest seal like the North American Rescue Latex Free HyFin Adhesive 6"x6" Transparent Chest Seal fully seals the open wound yet permits burping of the wound if needed. The North American Rescue HyFin Vent Compact Chest Seal – available in a twin pack – has a pressure-relief vent that allows air to escape the chest cavity during exhalation but prevents airflow from going in through the wound. The twin pack is exceptionally useful for stabilizing “through and through” injuries, where a foreign object passes completely through, and exits, the body.
The SAM Medical SAM Chest Seal with Valve performs a similar function and adheres under extreme conditions. Made for use in global combat zones, the SAM Chest Seal is night vision/low light optimized and can be viewed in all lighting conditions.
C – Circulation
The fourth step in MARCH trauma assessment is “C” for circulation. The assessment of circulation focuses on hemorrhage control and maintaining adequate perfusion or blood flow. When major hemorrhaging has been controlled, a pressure bandage can be applied to less critical injuries.
Emergency Tactical Response Solutions 4" OLAES Modular Bandage is a multipurpose bandage that is easy to apply – important during high-stress events when fine motor skills may be impaired – and can cover wounds and apply pressure on the wound site. The OLAES Hemostatic Bandage Flat Pack adds a hemostatic dressing in one convenient package for multiple injury profiles.
The non-pneumatic PerSys 6” Emergency Bandage – Military aka Israli Bandage is a multifunctional hemorrhage control system that is the choice of militaries around the world. The pressure applicator increases the pressure by up to 60% over a bandage alone and can apply 30 to 40 pounds of pressure at the wound site. It can be self-applied or applied to a trauma victim to stop bleeding and provide compression.
For a versatile bandage, the Trauma Treatment T3 Bandage from PerSys Medical is multifunctional and compact. It is suitable to effectively treat a wide range of injuries including entry and exit wounds, abdominal and large wounds and amputations.
H – Hypothermia / Head Injury
The last step in the MARCH trauma assessment is to treat for hypothermia. If a patient has lost blood, they have also lost body heat. Even if the weather is not cold, a victim with a penetrating wound should be treated for hypothermia.
Other situations, like shock, burns, head trauma or exposure to the elements, can be life-threatening. Carrying an emergency blizzard blanket or Kemp USA Mylar Emergency Blanket in your kit can save a life.