Stop the bleed, save a life

How to Save a Life -- 638
Saving Lives in An Emergency 545

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — You've probably heard of the saying, "Prepare for the worst, hope for the best."

No one hopes to ever be faced with a situation where someone's life needs saving, but everyone should be prepared for the chance it could happen.

One of the growing ways to help is with an initiative called Stop the Bleed.

The idea is that if an artery has been hit or someone is bleeding out, there are quick steps you can take to greatly improve their chances of surviving.

How it works

Stop the Bleed provides a series of quick steps you can learn that will help you save someone's life.

The first step is to always call 911 or have someone else call 911 for you and make sure it is safe for you to help.

Next, identify where the source of the bleeding and remove the clothing around it to assess how bad the injury.

Then look for and identify any "life-threatening" bleeding. Examples include:

  • Blood that is spurting out of the wound
  • Blood that won’t stop coming out of the wound
  • Blood that is pooling on the ground
  • Clothing that is soaked with blood
  • Bandages that are soaked with blood
  • Loss of all or part of an arm or leg
  • Bleeding in a victim who is now confused or unconscious

The best thing to do next is compress the bleeding blood vessel to stop the bleeding.

If you don't have a trauma kit, recommends the following steps:

  1. Take any clean cloth (for example, a shirt) and cover the wound.
  2. If the wound is large and deep, try to "stuff" the cloth down into the wound.
  3. Apply continuous pressure with both hands directly on top of the bleeding wound.
  4. Push down as hard as you can.
  5. Hold pressure to stop bleeding. Continue pressure until relieved by medical responders.

If you do have a trauma kit, then follow these steps:

  1. Open the clothing over the bleeding wound.
  2. Wipe away any pooled blood.
  3. Pack (stuff) the wound with bleeding control gauze (preferred), plain gauze, or clean cloth.
  4. Apply steady pressure with both hands directly on top of the bleeding wound.
  5. Push down as hard as you can.
  6. Hold pressure to stop bleeding. Continue pressure until relieved by medical responders.

Using a tourniquet

IEMS demonstrates the use of a tourniquet.

Tourniquets can make a real difference when someone is bleeding badly and more trauma and first aid kits are including them.

After two school shootings in Indiana in 2018, lawmakers have taken up the issue as well.

Lawmakers at the statehouse are debating a bill that would require a "Stop the Bleed" kit in every school. The cost is about $50 for each kit.

Local paramedics say the kits have become an important resource for emergency crews.

"If you don't do something quickly you can be in trouble pretty fast," said Shane Hardwick, a paramedic with Indianapolis EMS. "You get into a femoral artery and you're talking a couple of minutes."

Hardwick said the kits became more prominent in the war in Iraq. As soldiers returned home, some become police officers or first responders and sought out the tourniquet kits after using them firsthand.

Now they are becoming more common.

"These are all of our EMS resources we're trying to get into the hands of the general public. If we can train those bystanders basic hemorrhage control methods, we've turned them into an immediate responder," Hardwick said.

The kits lawmakers are wanting in schools would each include a tourniquet. provides steps on how to properly use a tourniquet:

  1. Wrap the tourniquet around the bleeding arm or leg about 2 to 3 inches above the bleeding site (be sure NOT to place the tourniquet onto a joint—go above the joint if necessary).
  2. Pull the free end of the tourniquet to make it as tight as possible and secure the free end.
  3. Twist or wind the windlass until bleeding stops.
  4. Secure the windlass to keep the tourniquet tight.
  5. Note the time the tourniquet was applied.

Download the booklet with more instructions and images to help.

Franciscan Health is one of the community agencies offering free Stop the Bleed training classes. Click here for a schedule.