Tourniquet use urged in public-safety push

The White House is pushing to make tourniquets as commonplace as heart defibrillators in U.S. schools, stadiums, airports, malls and other public places, to reduce fatalities from mass shootings and terror bombings.

Applying lessons learned on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Obama administration wants ordinary citizens armed with both the will and ability to grab a tourniquet and stop the wounded from bleeding to death before trained medics arrive.

Last month, Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina placed more than 150 bleeding-control kits, including tourniquets, around the terminals, baggage claim and checkpoints. Schools in Wisconsin, Illinois and New York have put tourniquets in classrooms and school offices, and have taught teachers and nurses how to apply them.

The White House last month convened emergency managers, medical groups, health-care companies and school administrators to urge civilians with little or no medical training to intervene to stem hemorrhaging.

“Someone needs to ask the question: ‘With all of the shootings going on, why doesn’t every school in the country have hemorrhage-control devices?’ ” asked former Army surgeon John Holcomb, professor of surgery at the University of Texas in Houston and a national advocate for widespread tourniquet use.

Last week’s attack in Paris, which killed 129 people, is precisely the kind of tragedy advocates believe calls for the ready availability of tourniquets, for use when manual pressure isn’t enough to stanch bleeding. “It’s not a question of if it will happen on our own soil; it’s a matter of when,” Dr. Holcomb said.

The campaign signals a turnaround for tourniquets, straps that cut off blood flow to extremities. The devices were commonly used through World War II, and then fell out of favor, with doctors warning that they could cause nerve damage or permanently ruin the injured arm or leg.

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