WNPR

Preparing Everyday People to Save Lives During Active Shooter and Terror Events

Nov 26, 2015

Dr. Lenworth Jacobs said it's best for citizens to be trained, in order to save lives.
An illustration showing one-handed tourniquet application and immediate responder hemorrhage control.
Credit The Hartford Consensus / Courtesy Dr. Lenworth Jacobs

In the weeks following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, Hartford Hospital trauma surgeon Dr. Lenworth Jacobs took a close look at patterns of injury the victims suffered. Using lessons learned from the military in Iraq and Afghanistan, he and a group of medical experts, law enforcement, and fire and rescue professionals helped to develop a new national protocol  for medical first responders  in active shooter and mass casualty events.

Now, Jacobs is advocating for a next step: preparing immediate responders. 

These are everyday people who may find themselves right on the scene of a shooting or mass casualty event.

"These are very unfortunate affairs," said Jacobs. "But having said that, they are usually started and stopped in a very short period of time, usually ten or fifteen minutes. So if you can stop bleeding for ten to 15 minutes, the patient is likely to survive."

Jacobs said it's best for citizens to be trained. But even if they’re not, once they know they're safe, immediate responders can help to control victims' massive bleeding until first responders arrive to take over treatment.

Jacobs said there’s an added benefit: a sense of resiliency. "Remember that terrorism is designed to scare people, and get you so scared that you lose faith in the government," he said. "That’s the purpose of it. So if you have a population who knows what to do, when to do it, how to do it,  you have a resilient population. And if we can achieve that, we have made a dramatic move against these terrorist types of activities."

And at the same time, we might save limbs and lives.

Listen to and read the interview below:

Dr. Lenworth Jacobs: The number and frequency and severity of both active shooter and intentional mass casualty events has increased, and has increased dramatically, in the last six months.

WNPR’s Diane Orson: You believe that everyday citizens can be empowered to be responders during events like this. Could you begin by giving me a sense of what you think everyday people could do?

Well, you know, these are very unfortunate affairs. But having said that, they are usually started and stopped in a very short period of time, usually ten to 15 minutes.

So if you can just stop bleeding for ten or 15 minutes, the patient is likely to survive. And if you don’t, then obviously, the more serious the bleeding is, the worst things are going to become. So it is absolutely critical that the immediate responder -- which is the person who is literally right there in the room -- as soon as the shooter or the explosive is no longer present, you need to be stopping bleeding.

Are there legal concerns for bystanders, you might call them, or people who are at the scene of an event like this, who may intervene but may be concerned that later on -- because they’re not professional responders -- could face legal repercussions?

You know, that’s a really good point, and I think the best way to think of it is CPR or a Heimlich maneuver.

If somebody beside you in a public place falls down from a heart attack, the society empowers you to get involved, start CPR -- and it protects you with a Good Samaritan law.

Similarly, if you are in a restaurant and somebody is choking right beside you, you don’t just call 911 and keep on eating. You jump up and do a Heimlich. It might be that you’ve never done it before. It might be that you don’t do it very well. But it also might be that you save the person’s life.

So the society says: "It’s okay to do that. We encourage you to do that. You should actually be trained. But if not, try your best and we’ll protect you with Good Samaritan laws if you're trying your best to do the right thing."

There’s also a psychological impact.

Particularly with the recent events in Paris, and external to the United States -- in Bali and Beirut, etc. -- remember that terrorism is designed to scare people, and get you so scared, you lose faith in the government. That’s the purpose of it.

The treatment for that is resilience. So if you have a population who knows what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and can save limbs and lives, you have a resilient population. And if we can achieve that, we have made a dramatic move against these terrorist types of activities. And as a byproduct of that, save limbs and lives.