Class Review - Stop the Bleed
by Kirk Lawson

Stop the Bleed.jpg

Get some "medical training" is a refrain I've heard over and over again. Before you buy another gun or take another "high speed, low drag" tacti-cool firearms class, get some medical training. It makes sense. Accidents happen and, even on a tightly controlled and safe range, things can go sideways. And, as was pointed out in the class, there are many possibilities for bleeding control outside of a "mass casualty" event; including auto accidents and accidents at work. Therefore the ability to keep the life-giving-liquid from leaking out until trained professionals can get there seems like a very advantageous skill.

While it was very good, for the time, and remarkably comprehensive, I have not had any emergency first aid type training since I got my First Aid Merit Badge in Boy Scouts over <cough cough> years ago.

Every time there was a recommendation for an entry-level emergency class, Stop the Bleed was always mentioned. Looking around, I found that a local hospital network, The Kettering Medical Network, offers a Stop the Bleed class every month, at no charge. So, for an outlay of zero dollars and zero cents, I called the phone number on their web page and reserved my spot.

The evening came, and I showed up. I had to hunt for a parking spot and then I had to ask the Visitor's Desk for directions to the room, but I managed to make it on time.

It was only an hour long class. The instructor, a Nurse, went through the material in a no-nonsense manner, not spending any unnecessary time. There were two handouts, a single 8.5 x 11, two-sided, glossy sheet, and a small booklet. The booklet, it turns out is a common step-by-step inclusion in many of the bleeding control kits. It is short, illustrated, and simply laid out. The intention is that even someone with no training could quickly glance through it and apply the life-saving tools. I have my doubts. Death from blood loss can come fairly quick and someone with no training at all might spend all their time trying to read the instructions before they could do it properly.


The class covered three standard bleeding control techniques, but ,conspicuously, any sort of chest seal was absent. This was explained as the result of two facts. First, deep bleeding injuries to the torso will almost always involve internal bleeding, which simply cannot be treated outside of a medical facility. Second, that a chest seal, misapplied, is as likely to cause more harm as to help. The best choice is to apply direct pressure and let the professionals get the victim to real services as quickly as possible.

Instead, the class focused on injuries to the limbs; an area which the random, slightly trained, passer by could have a reasonable chance of helping. The three techniques taught were:
  1. Direct Pressure
  2. Wound Packing
  3. Tourniquet
Often these are presented as complementary techniques instead of being in a vacuum of each other.

Direct pressure and wound packing really haven't changed much since those days of yore, low those <cough cough> years ago in Boy Scouts. But much about tourniquets has. Gone are the days of "high and tight" on the limb, now replaced with "a few inches above injury or a few inches above the knee or elbow joint." The ability to use two tourniquets was presented. Stern instructions were given AGAINST using improvised tourniquets, belts in particular. Apparently, following the Boston Bombing, a study was performed on the effectiveness of improvised belt tourniquets. The results were that, worse than simply not helping, belts actually caused more problems. This is because the belts could not be windlassed tight. They could be tightened enough to close the veins but not enough to close the arteries. In other words, it would not stop the outgoing flow but prevented any, even slight, return flow: All out, no return.

There was also discussion on the current tourniquets, and how to avoid cheap knock-offs. Essentially, it is based on price. Mostly, don't expect to spend less than about $30. The instruction and recommendations touched on Bleeding Control kits which include tourniquets, gauze, and clotting chemical.

The glossy page had on one side the basics the three treatment techniques.


Following the instruction, which included example, video, and images, there was hands-on practice. A foam rubber rod, about the size of a large thigh, with multiple "practice injuries" was used. Direct pressure, wound packing, and tourniquets were practiced.

While it was short, it was definitely worth my time. I would have paid for it, but, fortunately, I did not have to. I certainly have no problem recommending this class.