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  • Writer's pictureRobert Peel International

What would you do in an attack? The case for “Stay Alive” First Aid training.

Updated: Nov 26, 2021

The Government advice in the event of a terrorist attack is to “Run, Hide, Tell”. Advice is all well and good, but no one truly knows what they would do until the unthinkable happens.
Human beings are mammals and we act the same as other mammals when faced by danger, we either “Fight or Flight”. The course of action one takes is based on a lot of external influences, such as: The threat, our personality, who we are with, other dangers and previous experience and training.
Previous experience and training are perhaps the most effective influences. Study after study confirms that individuals who have had military or police training react differently in a crisis than people who have not. When all else fails, they will fall back on the drills that they learned, even if, in some cases, those drills were a lifetime ago.
There is also the initial reaction, which comes before the “Fight or Flight” phase, a reaction that is often not known about or understood. This recognised phase is called “Freeze”. This is a period when the brain makes a critical decision to either fight or flee. In trained individuals, this decision period occurs in a very short time window, again, dependent on experience and training. Individuals who have been in Special Forces or exposed to a high volume of operations often make decisions faster than those who have not, which is to be expected.
But what happens if you can’t flee or fight? There have been a number of high-profile attacks in recent times, where the vast majority could do neither, because of barriers such as: Collapsed buildings, the presence of armed individuals blocking potential escape routes, or injuries sustained by yourself or someone you know. The horrific attack on the Orlando nightclub, Pulse, in 2016, and the attack on the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall, in 2013, are prime examples.
People died in both these situations, from what we now know were treatable blood loss injuries. In other words, death was a result of bleeding that could have been stopped by someone with the correct training and experience. This includes the victim.
Soldiers on a modern battlefield are trained and expected to administer self-help as soon as they can, this action has saved lives numerous times. Casualties are able, in horrific circumstances, to receive lifesaving first aid treatment, which is enough to stabilise them before any medic, or doctor is able to see them.
The casualty survival rates for the Afghanistan and the Gulf Wars are mind blowing when compared to earlier conflicts. The difference between the two Gulf Wars is significant, to say the least. Survivability is just as dependent on what happens in the first 2 to 3 minutes following the injury, as it is the 3 to 4 hours of surgery back in an operating theatre. In fact, without that initial intervention, the surgery will not happen or even be necessary because the patient will be lost.
The battlefield has now moved, to an arena populated by people who, for the most part, have very little training and wouldn’t know what to do if someone was bleeding in front of them. Paris, Nice, Brussels, Nairobi, Orlando, Boston, Madrid, Mumbai, and London. Injured people caught up in these incidents had little or no idea as to what they needed to do to self-help. Some of the casualties in the Pulse nightclub attack were alive up until two hours after their injury. The emergency services could not get to them because they were under fire themselves and attempting to prevent further casualties. People could have easily been saved if they, or the people close to them, had even rudimentary knowledge of how to control catastrophic bleeding.
The real shame of this, is that it is not hard to obtain these skills. It does not require years, months, or even weeks of training! These skills can be taught, and more importantly, learned, in a few short hours with the right level of experienced trainers, combined with the correct equipment and knowledge.
Learning to manage the trauma of major blood loss can become second nature so that you can react instinctively when and if the situation arises, and it will keep, you, your friends and your family alive.
It’s not just attacks like shootings and bombings that apply, correct training will also save lives in any other situation which results in catastrophic blood loss, such as: Accidents in the home, on the roads, in work, or just an incident that occurs in day to day life.
Catastrophic bleeding occurs when an artery or major blood vessel is cut. This can easily happen at home or at work, but for some reason, many of your standard home or work first aid kits are ill-equipped to deal with such a trauma.
Again, a surprisingly little amount of specialist equipment is required. Simple pressure techniques, proper bandages, and some clotting agents are all that is needed.
Why then, do so little people have this knowledge, what stops more people from obtaining it? Is it time? Is it cost? Is it lack of opportunity? Or is it attitude? “Not my problem”.
The cost of such items, including the training and skill to use them, can be obtained for less than Åí150, and take as little as two hours to learn. The equipment needed can fit into a jacket pocket or one of the compartments on a computer bag. There are training providers who have the requisite knowledge and experience to train high numbers of people in the workplace very cheaply, so the opportunity is there if you look for it.
2 hours of training and the practice of carrying a small, effective First Aid kit can prevent a loved one, or someone you work with, from becoming a victim of violence or a serious accident. Ultimately, the right knowledge could even save you.
Another terrorist attack will happen. People will be caught up in it, and the major cause of loss of life will be catastrophic blood loss. The general public can do nothing to stop the attack, but they can do something to minimise the loss of life, simply by being ready and having the right attitude. So why not start preparing now?

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