New police first aid training ‘literally saving lives almost on a daily basis’


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Amid reports of rising violence on the streets of Winnipeg, new medical training for police has kept the number of homicides from rising.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/07/2022 (256 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Amid reports of rising violence on the streets of Winnipeg, new medical training for police has kept the number of homicides from rising.

The at-the-scene tactical trauma care training — designed by Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service medical director Dr. Rob Grierson and Winnipeg Police Service Const. Dan Hemmerling — is focused on the use of tourniquets and chest seals, among other advanced first aid techniques, to slow blood loss and plug wounds until further help arrives.

Chest seals are bandages for deep puncture wounds to prevent air from entering the chest cavity, while tourniquets apply pressure on limbs to stem the flow of blood.

The one-day traumatic medical care program, now co-ordinated by Const. Rob Saurette with the training academy, consists of a morning of theory learning and an afternoon of WPS officers applying the skills to practical scenarios — then on the street.

“The interventions they’re providing… are literally saving lives almost on a daily basis out there,” said Ron Keelan, a WFPS district chief of paramedic operations.

“The major ones we’re seeing are a lot of stabbings and more and more injuries due to gunshot wounds. These are resulting in chest injuries that can be mitigated with a chest seal or people will bleed out in a matter of minutes from arterial bleeds from their extremities from traumatic injuries such as stabbings or gunshot wounds if a tourniquet is not applied in those first few minutes.”

Brigitte Comte, also a WFPS district chief of paramedic operations, co-ordinates the tactical emergency support team, whose specially trained paramedics work in tandem with the tactical police team.

She said the new training has improved cohesion between the two emergency services departments. “I know that they’re making a positive impact out there.”

Hemmerling said the point of the training is to provide seamless care, through a conveyor belt of police, EMS and doctors.

Firefighter paramedics and paramedics aren’t able to rush into volatile scenes where there has been violence or weapons until police give them the OK — that could lead to precious lost minutes.

“I personally have been told by doctors at HSC that if (not for) actions I had taken or actions that officers had taken on scene, we would have a much higher homicide rate in the city,” said Hemmerling.

In one week in March, Saurette said, one police unit applied tourniquets to potentially fatal wounds: one on Burrows Avenue, where a man’s hands and wrists were cut to the point several arteries were severed; another on Mountain Avenue, where a man had been shot through the thigh.

One of the officers from the unit later packed another wound that had severed an artery in a man’s shoulder during a fight downtown, sufficiently enough to keep the man alive.

Five weeks ago, Hemmerling moved over to work for the tactical team. In that time, he said, he’s applied four chest seals and a tourniquet.

The one-day training will be mandatory bi-annually for all city police officers — including the WPS chief — by 2023, said Saurette.

“We put these officers in the worst-case scenario, we put them through a scenario in the dark, where they have to use their flashlights, there’s loud noises, flashing lights, people screaming, blood everywhere,” said Hemmerling.

“We try to train them to face that absolute worst day.”

Twitter: @erik_pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera

Erik Pindera reports for the city desk, with a particular focus on crime and justice.

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