You may not wear a badge or respond to emergency calls as a paramedic but let's face it, in a way, you are a first responder. There are countless scenarios where you may be the first one on the scene where a person sustains a traumatic, life-threatening injury. It could occur in your home, or while going about your daily life and it could happen to you, someone you love or a complete stranger out in public. The fact that you choose to carry a firearm, indicates that you take your personal survival, and the survival of loved ones seriously. For that reason, I cannot stress enough the importance of carrying a tourniquet or at least having one readily accessible. It literally may be the least expensive piece of gear you own. And one that could be the difference between life and death.
Those who spent time in the military, law enforcement or EMT fields are likely aware of the immense benefits a tourniquet offers. If you are not familiar with tourniquets, they are not a new or complex medical device. Tourniquets are used to stop the flow of blood to a part of the body that has sustained an injury which is causing the body to lose blood quickly. They are most useful for injuries that occur to appendages because the tourniquet works by compression of the arteries, and thus must be placed between the heart and the injury. Tourniquets are proven life-saving devices that have saved the lives of countless people.
There are many different types of tourniquets available, and all have their pros and cons, however, in my opinion, the SWAT-T is the best option of them all. I'll tell you why I believe they are a great option, but if you want more proof, there are hundreds of trauma surgeons, emergency responders, and military medical personnel who agree that it is the best tourniquet. There are also numerous medical research studies, field reports, and testimonials backing up the assertion that the SWAT-T is the gold standard when it comes to tourniquets. Here is a link to those studies and medical reviews. The SWAT-T has a police sounding name but it is not named after the police SWAT (Special Weapons And Tactics) team. The name is an acronym for how to apply the tourniquet: Stretch Wrap And Tuck-Tourniquet.
All tourniquets work on the same principle but there are a few different application methods. There most well known is a windless style of tourniquet that uses a handle or lever that when twisted causes the device to constrict around the limb. There are also ratcheting tourniquets that work just as you would expect, a ratcheting device allows the tourniquet to be tightened and stay secure around the limb. These types of tourniquets definitely work well, and if you carry one, you are ahead of the game. Not every application or incident is the same and having the same tool in a slightly different configuration can't hurt. So I am not saying other types of tourniquets are ineffective, but there are a few drawbacks with them. Number one, because of the way they are designed they are bulky, so if this is something you want to carry on your person, bulk is a drawback. Also, they are somewhat size specific; you may need to carry both a smaller ‘child size' tourniquet along with a larger adult size. Additionally, they are application specific and do not do anything besides act as a tourniquet. And these types of tourniquets are relatively expensive. The SWAT-T is different in many ways and that is its appeal.
Let's talk about how the SWAT-T is designed, and what makes it great. The SWAT-T looks like a simple elastic exercise band. It is 4″ wide and 56″ in length (before being stretched). It comes in 3 colors, high visibility orange for most applications this is fine; tactical black, for military or tactical use, and a blue color used for training. Regardless of color, they all perform in the same way. I mentioned that other tourniquets are bulky. The SWAT-T comes in a package about the size of a deck of playing cards. At that size, it is very easy to throw it into a cargo pocket or find a place for it in your med kit.
Application of the SWAT-T is very simple, in fact, as stated above, the name comes from the steps in its application: S-stretch, W-wrap, A-and, T-tuck. Something to be aware of when applying tourniquets, it how tight or loose to make it. The SWAT-T is unique because it has marks printed on it that help you know if you are getting the tightness right. As you can see in the photo, the marks on the SWAT-T will change shape when stretched allowing you to see if you are applying it too tight or too loosely. Applying the correct pressure with the tourniquet can often times be the difference between its application being successful or not. This is great because it requires minimal training and trauma care skills to use the tourniquet. The length of the tourniquet and the fact it is applied by wrapping it around the appendage allows it to be used on adults, children, skinny appendages or thick appendages. This really is a tremendous benefit because you don't want to have a tourniquet on hand, only to find that it is too small to wrap around the injured appendage, or it is too large and won't sufficiently restrict the blood flow to the injury. Because it is thicker in width, (4″) it creates less discomfort than more narrow tourniquets. If that was all the SWAT-T did it would be enough to sway me toward purchasing one. But, in addition to being a great tourniquet, is can also be used as a pressure dressing, sling, wrap or a splint (and I am sure you could think of more applications). You may be thinking, how will this elastic band work if it is covered with blood, which we all know is extremely slick? Test after test has shown that the SWAT-T retained its ability to wrap around itself and keep from slipping, even when covered with blood. Like other tourniquets, the SWAT-T can be applied to oneself very easily, which is an important consideration.
My experience with the tourniquet was great. Thank God I did not have to use it in an actual trauma incident, but I did take the time to apply it to myself to test the difficulty of application. I wanted to test applying it to myself first, (my wife doesn't like to be my test subject, go figure). I was able to easily learn how to apply the SWAT-T to myself just by using some common sense and trial and error. Applying it to my right arm, was more tricky because I am right handed and using my left hand to apply it was more difficult, but even in this situation, I was able to get the correct pressure and apply the SWAT-T. Applying it to my thigh and leg was much easier because I could use two hands. I found it to be a very intuitive design and I believe anyone who wanted to apply the tourniquet, would have the requisite skills to easily apply it.
If you search around for a tourniquet on the internet, you can expect to pay around $25-$30. The SWAT-T you can get for right around $12! This allows you to buy more than one, maybe leaving one in your car, at home and one in a med kit or carry one on your person. This would ensure you have one accessible no matter where you are. For organizations that may want to equip their employees with tourniquets, it is much more likely that the organization can afford it, meaning more tourniquets out and about. More tourniquets in more locations mean a better chance of one being around when it is needed. Additionally, the tourniquet can be reused if it has not been damaged.
Whether it is an incident in your home where a family member sustains a serious laceration, a traffic collision with servers limbs or a self-defense incident where you or someone else sustains a severe injury requiring the bleeding to be stopped immediately, having a tourniquet is critical. You don't have to be a trauma surgeon to use or realize the benefits of the SWAT-T. We all want to survive any incident that comes our way. Having a good trauma plan gives you a better chance at saving your life or the life of someone else. Stay safe out there. (Click here to see the SWAT-T on Amazon)