After Parkland shooting, cities show public how to save gunshot victims

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Several South Florida cities are installing special first-aid kits in public spaces to help prevent gunshot victims from bleeding out

Lisa J. Huriash, Tribune News Service

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — After a mass shooting or other emergency that leaves victims bleeding, bystanders can help the most in those vital first few moments.

Now, after the Parkland school massacre that killed 17 people, several South Florida cities are installing special first-aid kits in public spaces to help prevent gunshot victims from bleeding out.

These kits contain a tourniquet, a chest seal if somebody gets shot in the chest, and trauma gauze that can stop bleeding in seconds.

“When you have a penetrating injury, a person can bleed out very quickly,” said Frank Babinec, chief of the Coral Springs-Parkland Fire Department. If the public can help immediately, it boosts victims’ chances of survival, Babinec said.

About 300 kits are being newly added across Coral Springs and Parkland, at sites that already are required to have an automated external defibrillator available. This includes large fitness centers, hotels, motels and theaters and restaurants that have at least 100 seats. All dental offices must also have the kits.

Coral Springs, which signed off on new rules this week, is footing the initial $15,000 bill to distribute the kits.

Meanwhile, new businesses in Coral Springs will be required to buy their own kits to have on site. Parkland is expected to approve its own ordinance later this month.

The blood control kits stem from the “Stop the Bleed” campaign, an initiative begun by the White House in 2015 as a response to the Sandy Hook school shooting. It’s meant to encourage bystanders to be ready to help in a bleeding emergency before paramedics arrive.

After the Stoneman Douglas shooting, the city of North Lauderdale decided to buy 25 more kits, bringing its total to 33. The city soon will train summer camp counselors on how to use the kits, North Lauderdale Fire Battalion Chief Bill McGrath said.

“Sometimes it takes those bad things to make things better,” McGrath said. “Hopefully we never need to use them.”

Several years ago, Davie Fire Chief Julie Downey began outfitting town buildings with 50 kits. Another 350 kits were added in the past few months to sites such as shopping centers, large businesses, hotels and fitness centers.

A kit was once used in Davie when a public works employee was cut with a saw, and a colleague used the tourniquet to help until paramedics got there, she said.

“I think it’s wonderful because the public is here when any type of incident occurs, and we have to have the public trained so they can immediately call 911 and apply pressure,” Downey said.

She became interested in how the public in Davie could help several years ago, after hearing news of a shooting at a City Hall in Canada. She prowled the aisles of a dollar store until she found a cheap pencil case to store the tourniquets and gloves for people who want to help but fear contaminated blood.

She later was honored by the White House for her innovation.

Last year Hollywood also installed 115 kits in city facilities, community centers and parks.

Babinec said 911 dispatchers will instruct bystanders on how to use the equipment.

Babinec said he has been working on obtaining the kits for months, but it’s especially timely to install them now after Stoneman Douglas shooting. He said the city has no jurisdiction over public schools so kits won’t go there.

In the case of Stoneman Douglas, he said he thinks some of the injuries were so devastating that even if surgeons had been there, it might not have made a difference. Yet he’s hopeful the kits could be helpful in other emergencies.

“If we can save one (life), it’s worth it,” he said.

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