1. Improvised tourniquets are a bad idea
2. The most common reasons for not having a tourniquet are unsound
3. Learn the basics and you can improvise if forced
The above picture is an example of the difficulties in improvising a tourniquet when a wound is severe enough to require one. As the gentleman pictured noted in an email to us, “… [he] received life-threatening injuries to both upper legs as the result of another shooter’s accidental discharge of his weapon. The .30-06 bullet caused very serious injuries to both legs, but the most critical injury was the severing of my left popliteal artery (the largest artery behind the knee)…” To repeat, this injury is secondary to a weapon not being cleared on a range, not a battlefield wound nor a deliberate attempt on his life by a suspect. As you can see, initial attempts to stop the bleeding with a belt were unsuccessful, as illustrated by the ground saturated with blood. Luckily, the Range Master had a kit that contained a SOFTT, which was applied quickly and saved his life.
The point is this: if a manufactured device is available, then have one on-hand. Too many police officers dismiss carrying a tourniquet because “that is the medic’s job.” BULLSHIT! Or, and this is a common one, “I will improvise and use a belt or sling.” Really? Whether an LEO is serving a warrant or issuing a ticket he/she is responsible for his/her life for the time it takes medics to arrive and assist if the scene is safe.
The above-mentioned reasons for not carrying a tourniquet are unfathomable. First, that a team SOP, in the context of a SWAT team, for instance, would be for one to rely on a medic to save one’s life does not make sense. As has been belabored in tactical medicine circles, one can bleed-out in less than 4 min. Are you going to sit and wait for someone else to save your life? The military suffered from that mindset, but have since adopted the care guidelines of self-aid, buddy-aid, and medic-aid. Second, the improvised-when-needed reasoning is not sound. This would be analogous to waiting until you had a weapon pointing at your face, then proceeding to quickly constructing a Zip gun. I assume an LEO would not serve a warrant or stop a suspicious vehicle without having a pistol. Therefore, why would you do the same without a piece of kit that costs approximately the same as a box of 9mm ammunition and has been proven to save lives?
It is not our stance that one should not know how to improvise. In fact, we sponsered a contest to find the best ways to improvise using one piece of kit, of which a tourniquet was one. However, while one ought to have the knowledge to improvise when needed that only comes from learning the basics, choosing to not carry the correct equipment because one plans to improvise is not prudent.