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Weeks After Dallas PD First Began Using Tourniquets, One Saves a Cop's Life

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Dallas police officer Joshua Burns is alive right now in part because he was wearing a bulletproof vest, because alleged shooter Rakeem Perkins didn't hit his head, because he was rushed to Baylor Medical Center, where trauma doctors tended the wounds on leg and shoulder.

He's also alive because, when he went down at a Northeast Dallas apartment complex on Sunday, his fellow officers applied a tourniquet to help stop the bleeding.

That seems like it should be standard practice for cops, often the first to scenes of bloodshed and mayhem, but it hasn't been. It was only 10 weeks ago that Dallas PD handed out and trained officers to use 1,500 "Downed Officer Kits," which contain "cutting-edge hemorrhage control equipment," according to DPD's brag on Facebook today.

There may be some whiz-bang stuff in the kits, but a tourniquet isn't exactly cutting-edge technology. But it's only recently that law enforcement agencies have begun using them on a broad scale. Here's a New York Times piece from last month explaining the trend:

The tourniquet's resurgence results in part from lessons learned in Afghanistan and Iraq. Only 2 percent of soldiers with severe bleeding in those countries died compared with 7 percent in Vietnam in part because tourniquets were in widespread use and the injured were quickly transported to doctors.

In the past year, civilian trauma doctors, realizing that emergency personnel in much of the country can transport the wounded to a trauma center in less than 30 minutes, have followed the lead of the military. The success of the rapid medical response to the Boston Marathon bombings, where bystanders used their clothes as tourniquets, has bolstered their efforts.

"As we began to take a hard look at how to respond to these types of incidents, what became clear was that the sooner you can stop victims from bleeding, the higher likelihood you will have for reducing fatalities," said John Cohen, a senior counterterrorism official at the Department of Homeland Security and a member of a committee appointed by President Obama to study gun violence after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. "And the things that make the biggest difference in stopping bleeding are tourniquets and other bandages."

The tourniquet's ability to save lives has always been there. It was fear of tissue damage and, ultimately, amputation, that caused it to fall into disfavor. But that only occurs when a tourniquet is left in place for several hours -- way, way longer than it would take first responders in a big city to get someone to a hospital.

And to think, all it took to realize that was two wars and a horrific terrorist attack.

Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.

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