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Learning to "Stop the Bleed"

DICKINSON, N.D.—In the wake of one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history—which claimed the lives of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012—the American College of Surgeons began an extensive study on how to improve survivability in similar situations moving forward.

The American College of Surgeons invited senior advisors from law enforcement, U.S. military, medicine, emergency medical services and fire-rescue organizations to consolidate information and develop an initiative designed to improve victim survivability in future traumatic events.

The result was a Department of Defense program titled "Stop the Bleed."

The program seeks to build national resilience through preparing the public to act as first responders. To accomplish this goal, the program raises awareness of the basic actions needed to stop life-threatening bleeding following emergencies.

Much of the program focuses on advances in medicine made by the military in areas of hemorrhage control, which were learned over a decade of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Hemorrhaging, or the loss of excessive blood through trauma, is the leading cause of preventable death associated with trauma in the United States.

The initiative identified a key fact in every trauma event—no matter how quickly first responders arrived at the scene of an accident, everyday citizens were always the first on the scene.

Mary Aaland, associate professor of Surgery and director of Clinical Research at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences, has spent the better part of 7 years training people with the Stop the Bleed program in rural North Dakota.

Aaland explained how a person can die from blood loss within minutes.

"It's critical to quickly stop blood loss and the people closest to us, our own community, are best positioned to give the first care," she said.

Aaland outlined the leading causes of trauma-related deaths in rural North Dakota as being primarily concerning two types of incident: motor vehicle accidents and gunshot wounds.

"Having people trained in rural communities could be the difference between living and dying," Aaland said. "Because emergency responders aren't always nearby, the more people know how to stop the bleed, the greater the chances are of surviving that injury."

According to Aaland, everyday citizens can be trained to do this with a one-hour course, without any prior medical experience, and could very well stop a preventable death.

The goal of the program is to train communities and make them self-sufficient to train others, effectively expanding the life-saving potential of communities exponentially.

For information on how to attend a Stop the Bleed course, visit https://cms.bleedingcontrol.org/class/search, or by downloading a recently launched Stop the Bleed iPhone and Android app.

Donna Thompson, communications director for the North Dakota Medical Association, contributed to this report.

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