Skip to main content

Upstate N.Y. Civilians Learn How to Stop the Bleed

May 29—The days of calling 911 and waiting for first responders are over.

Civilians, including some without medical experience, are being trained to save lives when seconds count. Some learn to reverse opiate overdoses with Narcan. Others learn CPR, or how to use a public defibrillator when someone falls in cardiac arrest.

The latest front in the bystanders' battle to save lives is the national "Stop the Bleed" campaign, which is being rolled out widely across Erie and Niagara counties with an offer of free training and some supplies for groups at schools, churches, businesses and libraries.

Launched in 2017 by the National Security Council, the campaign was spurred by the knowledge that some of those who died in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012, could have survived their injuries if their bleeding had been controlled.

The Stop the Bleed training is designed to give civilians the tools, knowledge and, most of all, the confidence they need to save lives after any traumatic event, from a household accident to a mass shooting.

"If you are within an environment where something has happened, we hope that there are lots of people empowered with this type of training, because bystanders can save lives," said Elise K. Pignatora, public information officer and director of Public Health Planning and Emergency Preparedness for the Niagara County Department of Health. "EMS can most certainly not arrive within the first five minutes, so we empower the community to have such training, and the equipment if possible."

Someone with serious bleeding—which "Stop the Bleed" will also train people to recognize—can die within five minutes. "Studies have shown that 80 percent of civilian trauma fatalities are due to uncontrolled bleeding from an extremity," said Pignatora. "So it goes to show that there is need, when something occurs, to empower bystanders to do something."

At a recent train-the-trainers session at Erie County Medical Center, members of the Erie County Specialized Medical Assistance Response Team (SMART) and the Medical Reserve Corps of Niagara County gathered to learn the skills they would then teach others.

Beth Moses, trauma injury prevention and education coordinator at ECMC, showed the group the video they would show their classes. "You are the help until help arrives," Moses said. "It is the person standing next to the person who puts his arm through the window who is going to make a difference between life and death."

Moses demonstrated the design and use of several types of tactical tourniquets, which can be quickly applied to an injured arm or leg, and several types of high-tech hemostatic gauze, which contains a substance that encourages clotting.

In the training, students use a trauma trainer limb, which resembles a roll of bologna, with openings simulating a deep slash wound and gunshot entrance and exit wounds. Students pack the open wound with the gauze, then apply direct pressure.

"The combat gauze and combat tourniquet work," said Daniel P. McCartan, a registered nurse and emergency manager at ECMC. McCartan retired as a commander in the Nurse Corps of the Navy Reserve and was assigned to Ground Zero after 9/11 and deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom. "I have seen the results both stateside and overseas."

As Scoutmaster of Troop 416 at Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in West Seneca, McCartan had all his scouts take the Stop the Bleed course. "This is critically important," he said.

"While we may have been the first Boy Scout troop to do it around here, we weren't the first in the country," he said. A few photos in the instructional video are graphic, so McCartan allowed the Scouts, most of whom are younger than 13, to step out of the room if they didn't want to see them. "None of them did," he said.

"I explained to them that some of the kids who died in Sandy Hook might have been saved if someone controlled their bleeding," he said. "In several of the shootings that have taken place in the U.S., there were instances where Boy Scouts intervened—Columbine was one example."

The SMART team in Erie County and the Medical Reserve Corps in Niagara County will offer free Stop the Bleed training to groups at churches, schools, libraries and workplaces, and trainers will hand out a free "Stop the Bleed" kit valued at $70 to each of the first 60 groups in each county to schedule training.

The kits, which each contain one tactical tourniquet, hemostatic gauze, gloves and EMS scissors, were secured by an application from the Niagara County Department of Health for a challenge award offered by the National Association of City and County Health Officials Medical Reserve Corps.

"That kit is intended to be located at that site should they have an emergency," said Pignatora. Each site is encouraged to buy additional kits to deal with more than one injury, she said.

"When I talk to people about the campaign, the overwhelming reaction is, 'Where is the next training?'" said Pignatora. "This is a way to learn in one hour to protect the health and safety of the people you love."

"No matter the cause, nobody should die because no one there had the knowledge and the tools to stop the bleeding," said McCartan. "This course provides the knowledge and will tell you some of the places to purchase the tools."

To set up training in Erie County, contact Pati Aine Guzinski at 858-7109, or; in Niagara County, contact Francisco Meza Aguero at 439-7436 or

Back to Top