Assembling a blow out kit for patrol
By Chuck Soltys, EMT-B
With the threats currently facing today’s law enforcement officers, the need for basic tactical emergency medical skills and equipment cannot be overstated. Having the basic skills and necessary equipment to treat a life-threatening penetrating injury such as a gunshot or stab wound is crucial. It only takes between two and four minutes to bleed to death from an injury to a major artery. Even EMTs and paramedics with the best intentions (and skills) may not be able to render aid in time. For an unspecified amount of time, you will be on your own. It will be your personal skills and available equipment that will likely be the difference between life and death. You must be mentally prepared to come out of a critical incident with a life worth living, not mere survival where your quality of life has been irreparably damaged. Training and preparing to prevail and not merely survive is a responsibility that falls squarely on each of us.
There are numerous companies out there that are producing high-quality individual immediate action medical kits (or blow out kits as the military refers to them). Many of these kits are offered preloaded or can be loaded to suit your own specifications. However, some kits can be prohibitively costly for many police officers. An alternative is to build your own blow out kit.
Assembly of the Blow Out Kit
Items Required for the Blow Out Kit
Note: The materials used in the production of some civilian triangular bandages may not be strong enough to function effectively as an improvised tourniquet. They will tear before adequate pressure can be applied. In addition, an improvised tourniquet will generally take more time to properly apply which could be critical. There are currently a variety of emergency compression dressings on the market that work very well to control hemorrhaging and are suitable for the tactical environment. The OLAES Modular Bandage, the emergency compression dressing commonly referred to as the Israeli Battle Dressing, the “H” Bandage, and the Cinchtight bandage are examples of some of the most popular compression bandages available for tactical use.
As with any piece of gear, each of these items have particular advantages and disadvantages, the decision on which components to carry/use are best left up to the individual officer/operator. Whichever items you choose, make sure you train regularly with them. A compression dressing can be used many times for training purposes. However, items used for training should be from a blow out kit dedicated to training only. Do not use items from your duty blow out kit for training. Make friends with your local EMTs, paramedics, and hospital emergency room personnel. They may have items available to support your operations that will further reduce the cost of your blow out kit.
Be very careful when buying off-the-shelf first aid kits that are not designed for tactical applications. Often, these kits will list the necessary components, but upon examination many of the components are less than adequate for law enforcement. I recommend sticking with a kit that you assemble yourself comprised of components that meet or exceed the criteria for tactical applications or purchase a pre-loaded kit from a reputable tactical medical supplier. There are many companies out there producing/selling quality products.
Assembling the Blow Out Kit
Put the Sharpie and the Nitrile gloves into the small Ziploc bag. Carry two pairs of gloves so that you have a pair to offer someone that may be available to assist you, or in the event you rip a pair while trying to don them (which is quite common under stress), you have an extra pair immediately accessible.
Advanced Blow Out Kit
You’re done...it is that simple!
Keep the kit in a cargo pocket or in an easily accessible place in your vehicle, such as the side pouch on your driver’s side door or center console. Keep in mind that there is a considerable compromise in choosing to position the kit in your vehicle and not on your person as your duties will likely take you away from your vehicle making it difficult if not impossible to get to in the event of an emergency. I have positioned an identical kit in the side pouch of both front doors and on the tailgate of all of my vehicles. This makes a blow out kit available from three sides of the vehicle which could be critical in the event of an attack while in or near my vehicle. Under fire, I might not be able to get to one kit placed in the driver’s door, but having at least one other blow out kit placed elsewhere increases my chances of accessing life-saving equipment if/when needed.
As Police Chief and top trainer Jeff Chudwin says “We do not get to choose when and where we will be attacked, the number of attackers, the duration of attack, or how we might be injured, that will be decided for us.” However, by virtue of the oath we took, we have an obligation to be prepared. If faced with a critical injury, you can prevail!
Chuck Soltys is a 23-year law enforcement veteran. He is currently a federal agent and Tactical Emergency Medical Technician (EMT-B). He has been assigned to specialized enforcement groups as well as serving three tours of duty on a jungle operations team in South and Central America. Chuck holds numerous instructor certifications and has instructed extensively in the United States as well as in South America, Central America, South Africa, and Europe. Chuck is a member of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA) Board of Directors and TEMS Committee Co-Chair, International Law Enforcement Educators & Trainers Association (ILEETA), National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), International Association of Law Enforcement Firearms Instructors (IALEFI), as well as numerous other professional organizations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Department of Justice or an officer or entity of the United States.
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