With the number of mass shootings across America increasing each year, there is a growing focus on integrated response, placing paramedics and EMTs side-by-side with law enforcement when called to scenes of violence. As tactical medical response evolves to meet these growing needs, so does our medical equipment. But the restrictions that go along with tactical scenarios—namely, take only what you can carry—mean that each piece of equipment must be fundamental to the mission. There is no room for excess. Let's explore five things to include in your tactical trauma kit.
1. Personal Protection
Since you're of no use to the patient if you become injured on the scene, your priority must be protecting yourself. Your tactical gear (body armor, helmet, and clothing) can help protect you from bullets and shrapnel, but you must also consider the normal hazards of patient contact. Victims on the scene will most likely be suffering from traumatic injuries, such as gunshot wounds, which means you must protect yourself from blood and other bodily fluids during treatment.
Your tactical trauma kit should include the basics of personal protective gear, including:
- Eye protection
- Face shields
Disposable gowns may not be practical in the tactical setting, but make sure your eyes, face, and hands are protected during patient contact.
2. Assessment Tools
Like any medical emergency, tactical treatment begins with a patient assessment. You'll need the fundamentals to complete your assessment and measure vital signs, including:
- Stethoscope (especially in the case of penetrating wounds to the chest)
- BP cuff
- Pulse oximeter
- CO2 monitor
Keep these tools in a single pouch for easy access and to expedite your assessment.
3. Trauma Supplies
When you think tactical scenarios, think traumatic injuries. You're not going to be treating chronic conditions, such as COPD or asthma. Tactical medicine is aimed at life-threatening injuries associated with scenes of violence—in other words, trauma.
Your trauma supplies must include enough provisions to handle extensive wounds. Your bag should contain:
- An assortment of dressings to cover various sized wounds
- An assortment of bandages (gauze and Kling), along with specialized bandages for controlling hemorrhage (Israeli or H-bandage)
- Hemostat dressings
- Chest seal bandages
Your goal is to stop the bleeding and stabilize the patient for removal, so be sure to include plenty of trauma supplies in case there are multiple patients.
4. Airway Equipment
Just like your assessment equipment, you'll have to streamline your airway gear. This includes:
- Basic adjuncts, such as NPA and OPA
- Pocket mask
- Collapsible bag valve device
- Chest decompression kits
- Advanced airways (endotracheal or King tubes)
5. Suction for the Tactical Setting
Many tactical teams outfit their bags with a manual suction device that is activated by a hand pump. A better alternative is a battery-powered portable suction unit specifically designed for the tactical setting. A lightweight, high-powered unit, small enough to stow in your tactical bag, will be ideal for handling the blood and bodily fluids associated with traumatic injury. There is no replacement for suction, so ensure that you have a dependable, effective unit that can clear the airway, enable you to visualize the cords, and provide the power and endurance needed during a tactical emergency.
Outfitting your tactical trauma kit requires a focused approach to lifesaving equipment, and these five things will ensure your kit is ready. Your gear must be lightweight, portable, and most of all, effective—especially your portable suction unit.
J. Morrissey, What's in Your Tactical Medical Kit? EMS1.com,