Roane State Community College’s Kirk Harris believes details save lives.
Harris, director of continuing healthcare and safety education, recently started offering a course on tactical combat casualty care/tactical emergency casualty care. The course applies lessons learned from the experiences of U.S. soldiers and the latest research on combat care in Iraq and Afghanistan to situations first responders could face.
“Unfortunately, we are seeing law enforcement incidents that are more like military combat, such as mass shootings at schools and industries,” Harris said. “We can learn a lot from the experiences of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. This course brings that knowledge together.”
Harris and course instructors stress the details that could save lives. For example, first responders often carry tourniquets. Harris teaches them to tie their tourniquets to long cords.
Why? Suppose a paramedic arrives at the scene of a shootout. Bullets are flying. The paramedic spots an officer who is wounded and pinned down. When the paramedic throws a tourniquet to the officer, it might fall short. If the tourniquet is tied to a cord, then the paramedic can reel it back in and try again while staying out of the danger zone.
Students also learn how to quickly tie a tourniquet one-handed.
“While a person is wounded out in the open, he’s bleeding,” Harris said. “If it’s 15 minutes before law enforcement can get the area secured, he’s already bled to death in three minutes. The more people can self-care by tending to their own wounds and tying their own tourniquets, even when they’ve lost the use of an arm or hand, the more likely they are to live.”
Students also respond to a mock nightclub shooting. To simulate the experience, Harris puts the students in a dark room. Music blares. Strobe lights flicker. The room is filled with smoke.
“Creating a realistic environment is an important part of the class,” Harris said. “It’s easy to talk about a scene. It’s a whole other story to get their heart rate up with some Metallica, and they can’t see what they are doing. It’s hard to find a patient’s wound. You can’t see the blood in this kind of environment. Plus, breathing can be challenging.”
Oak Ridge Fire Department Captain Eric Mocsari said the realistic environment better prepares first responders for emergencies.
“It adds to the stress level,” he said. “You have decreased vision. You have strobes going off. It makes you go back to muscle memory rather than thinking through a process. You do it automatically. We practice these skills and get good at these skills. Then, they put us in a stressful environment, and we do the skills. It becomes where we can do them without thinking about it. The class is great for hands-on learners.”
Roane State is offering the tactical combat casualty care/tactical emergency casualty care course March 24-25.