Surviving Wounds Before EMS Arrives: The Bible Of Self-Care And Buddy-Care

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The foreword for a recent book on casualty care for cops poses two questions that every officer should face up to realistically:

If wounded, “how will you survive?” And “What will you do if no one can come to your rescue?”

The answers lie in the 129 pages that follow in Officer Down! A Practical Tactical Guide to Surviving Injury in the Street by Dr. Andrew Dennis. This slim but meaty volume qualifies as a bible for trainers and officers involved in law enforcement’s growing movement toward self-care/buddy-care for serious wounds in the field.

The grim fact is, Dennis writes, in the worst circumstances “precisely when police officers are in the most danger, emergency medical services cannot reach them.” With rounds flying, with you or other officers bleeding and still needing to return fire, or even in nonfelonious situations such as horrendous vehicle crashes, “you must prepare to be on your own and to take care of your injuries for a minimum of 15 minutes….

“Preservation of life [needs to] begin the moment injury strikes. You cannot wait…to start applying countermeasures.”

How best to fill that critical time frame–how to make the right medical decisions and how to administer the life-saving techniques to back them up–is the thrust of Dennis’ book.

Drawing on more than 20 years’ experience as a sworn LEO and SWAT operator, as well as a leading trauma surgeon at Chicago’s “knife-and-gun-club” county hospital, Dennis emphasizes that wound survival requires a marriage of four core components:

Mindset, Mechanics, Management, and Movement. Complete with vivid injury photographs, he devotes a utilitarian chapter to each.

Among his multitude of revelations are:
  • The kind of pre-event training that creates the best mental “script” for defeating paralyzing fear and destructive perceptions and expectations when injury strikes;
  • A simple, “nuts-and-bolts” mnemonic–Breathe, S-T-O-P, Move–that quickly and calmly enables you to control your mind and body, check yourself for injuries, and then “efficiently prioritize and deliver tactical medical care”;
  • In-depth facts about the nature of wounds from firearms and edged weapons that can be critical to your survival–but are rarely taught in law enforcement circles;
  • Misunderstandings about the lethality of various weapons and wound locations that can dangerously impact your response decision-making;
  • How to determine what to do and when to do it “in balancing life-saving measures, tactics, and mission priorities”;
  • In the midst of a hot zone, how to assess whether bleeding requires immediate attention, or can wait;
  • Why the much-touted tourniquet, when improperly chosen for treatment over a pressure dressing, may actually cause further tissue damage, including the potential of “total limb loss”;
  • Four principles of proper pressure and how to apply them;
  • What to include in a proper trauma kit to elevate it above a mere first-aid package;
  • Why Dennis believes, “If you carry a knife, the world is your bandage”;
  • Strategic approaches and escape tactics for making it out of the field of fire alive, despite injuries;
  • And much more, supporting Dennis’ overarching credo: “If you’re not immediately dead from an injury, the odds of survival are on your side.”

Note: Officer Down! is available through Amazon or from Kendall Hunt Publishing Co. at: https://www.kendallhunt.com/officer_down. The book is a synopsis of a unique, eight-hour, hands-on training program Dr. Dennis has designed, called Medical Tactics for Law Enforcement. For more information, visit Dennis’ website: http://medicaltactics.com/dr-andrew-dennis.php or contact him at: adennis@medicaltactics.com. Our thanks to Jeff Chudwin, president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Assn., for helping to facilitate this review.

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