The kits will now be carried by every officer in the department.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When the bomb went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 many people were injured.
But the dangerous scene was inaccessible to emergency medical services.
Boston Police officers were carrying tourniquets and gauze to stop excessive bleeding for those injured, which upped the survival rate while the scene was being secured.
Now thanks to the Elks Lodge, Pittsfield officers will have those same tools if there ever is a need.
"The Boston PD officers who had been equipped with 'downed officer kits' for self-aid and buddy aid were able to place those kits on civilian trauma victims while they were still in the active hot zone before EMS could come in," Chief Michael Wynn said. "In the after action reports, it was shown that having that equipment on ground zero and deployable on ground zero probably increased the survival rate at the site of the bombing significantly."
Pittsfield Elks Lodge board member Brian Andrews, who also runs County Ambulance, read the reports from what is known as the Hartford Consensus, which was a group of surgeons studying active shooter and mass causality incidents. That group found that stopping bleeding in those situations makes a big difference in survival rates.
Andrews and the other Elks club members then put together a fundraising effort to equip local police with the individual police officer kits (IPOKs) they would need to do so.
"The kit consists of a tourniquet, which the military has taught us that the tourniquets are very valuable in the care of patients suffering uncontrollable bleeding. There is a gauze that is impregnated with a clot assisting agent. They can pack that on a wound and it will quickly slow and hopefully stop the bleeding," Andrews said.
"It was just a project I came up with, working alongside with the police officers, we know in an active shooter situation or a terrorism event happens, EMS may be there but they may not be able to get to the victims right away."
The Elks raised $2,000 on its own and combined it with a $2,000 grant from the charitable national arm of the organization to buy the components to create 80 kits. Pittsfield Police then contributed some from its operating budget to make sure every sworn officer had the kit on their persons.
"My goal with the Elks is to hopefully now extend this program to all of the other surrounding police departments," Andrews said. "We just think it is an important component to protecting our police officers and give them assistance. That's what the Elks do. We try to help our community in any way we can."
Wynn said the kits, which officers can use on themselves, on their partner, or on a citizen, have been on the radar for the department for some time. It wasn't until after the reports following the Boston Marathon bombing when it jumped in priority. Concurrently, Andrews had his own eyes set on such a project and the two teamed up.
"The Pittsfield Police Department has been utilizing what we call individual police officer kits, or downed officer kits, in some special units for a while. The team operators have had them on their raid vest and the guys in the drug unit and high risk, high profile units have had them. But we've always purchased them with special funds or seizure funds. We've never had it in our operation budget," Wynn said. "It has been on our radar that this was something we wanted to do and push out."
The officers are trained first responders and the cruisers are equipped with first aid kits. But, that doesn't help if they are in the middle of an incident.
"Those kits are in the car. If you deploy, unless you are a tactical officer carrying all of your stuff on your raid vest or the tactical medic carrying an advanced life support bag if you run into a hot call and your first aid supplies are behind you, you are not going back out," Wynn said. "You are going to try to manage wound care with what is on your belt."
The equipment fits right into the officer's vest and is easy enough to use with one hand. The pieces are tucked into a vest pocket and can stay there so every day the officer dresses, the equipment is already there.
"When they get dressed to go on the street, this kit is on their person," Wynn said.
Wynn said all of the officers are all trained and equipped with the items. He said he worked with a vendor to keep costs down by instead of purchasing pre-packaged full kits, ordering the pieces to make the kits themselves.
"This is one of those collaborative projects between, in this case, the department, our local EMS provider who also happens to be a local non-profit service agency, and a preexisting vendor. We were able to take a vendor we've done a lot of work with and say this is what we want to do," Wynn said.
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