Because peace sometimes imitates war, Vail PD equips patrol vehicles with tactical trauma kits
July 21, 2018
VAIL — Battlefield casualties tend to be the same as civilian casualties when the shooting starts.
Vail Police Detective Jesse Rector spent six years on active duty in Iraq and has been in law enforcement since. It was his idea to outfit every Vail patrol vehicle with Active Shooter Response kits from Tactical Medical Solutions.
They're designed to treat people in mass-casualty situations, Rector said.
The principle is uncomplicated.
"If you can keep people's blood inside them and their air going, you can keep them alive until the paramedics can get to them," Rector said.
Why it's important
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Rector served in Iraq from 2005 to 2010 and saw firsthand why it's so important.
"They started to figure out that most of the battlefield injuries people were dying from fell into three basic categories," Rector said.
• 60 percent: Massive bleeding from an extremity (arm or leg). They die in 2 to 6 minutes.
• 33 percent: Tension pneumothorax, or chest wound. They die in 10 minutes.
• 6 percent: An occluded or blocked airway. They die in 4 to 8 minutes.
Those three types of injuries account for 99 percent of preventable battlefield deaths, Rector said, citing military research data.
They're not difficult to treat; anyone can do it, Rector said. You need some gear, and you need to act immediately.
"Luckily, conditions can be effectively treated by non-medical personnel using minimal equipment," Rector said. "These conditions are fatal because they must be treated within minutes of an injury occurring."
Hemorrhaging from an extremity — arm or leg — is pretty obvious. You slap a tourniquet on it and crank it down. Tourniquets are back in favor after President Barack Obama ordered research on ways to survive attacks like the 2012 mass slayings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. What followed was "The Hartford Consensus," a compilation of best practices and guidelines headlined by a call to revive the tourniquet.
If something penetrates the chest, then police or about anyone else can yank what amounts to a big piece of tape out of the trauma kit and place it over the hole. Here's why that works.
"When someone breathes, they draw air through that hole. That puts pressure on the lungs and they cannot breathe, and eventually their heart stops beating," Rector said.
War and Peace
Injuries in a mass casualty incident are largely the same as casualty stats in war zones, he said.
"These statistics, derived from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have held true for many domestic terrorist attacks; most notably, the Aurora movie theater shooting," Rector said.
Rector was in a training session not long after the Las Vegas mass shooting, Oct. 1, 2017, during an outdoor country music concert.
Police were first on the scene in Las Vegas, as they almost always are everywhere, doing everything they could, as fast as they could.
"The object is to keep people alive until the paramedics arrive and they can be treated properly," Rector said.
One of the most consistent problems is the lack of medical gear in the field. Paramedics show up as quickly as they can, and more quickly around here than many places, Rector said, but police are generally on the scene first.
"We're always out and about; we're almost always the first ones on the scene," Rector said.
Other local agencies have taken an interest and want to get on board. However, the Vail PD is the first to put the trauma kits in their cars. The kits cost $617.27 each. That's $4,938.16 for Vail's patrol vehicles, plus one emergency trauma station at Checkpoint Charlie in Vail Village for $599.
All in, the town spent $5,537.16 to outfit the police force.
"The town has been very supportive in making sure we have the equipment and training we need," Rector said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.