Someone with a serious medical emergency — a gunshot wound, stabbing, injuries from a crash — can confront Tucson police officers on any given day.
Now, thanks to new first-aid kits, officers are better prepared to handle those emergencies and provide lifesaving care to someone before medical personnel arrive.
As of this week, about 600 patrol officers and sergeants with the department have been trained to use the new trauma kits, which are similar to ones used by the military.
The first-aid kits officers began working with about 10 years ago were obsolete. When south-side patrol Officer Eric Evans, 35, brought it to the attention of his commanders in 2013, the bosses listened.
Officers are now using the kits, which are kept in patrol cars, to care for an injured person until paramedics with the Tucson Fire Department arrive, said Detective Jason Bredehoft, an emergency medical technician assigned to the SWAT team. Bredehoft was one of four instructors who taught officers how to use the kits.
Dr. Christopher Tarr, the department’s SWAT medical director, along with Dr. Peter Rhee, a University of Arizona Medical Center trauma surgeon, and Tucson Fire Department personnel had input on the kit’s design.
The new kits cost the department $39,000, and the department qualified for a military surplus program to help equip the kits with additional medical supplies for free, said Lt. Eric Kazmierczak of Operations Division South.
The kits contain items such as special wound packing gauzes with a mineral to speed up clotting; a tourniquet; pressure dressings to treat severe wounds; a large bandage to cover abdominal wounds; and chest seals, an airtight sticker that seals holes in the chest cavity.
These trauma kits are the national standard among law-enforcement agencies, and more departments across the nation are using the kits, Kazmierczak said.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has used these kits since 2010, said Deputy Tracy Suitt, a sheriff’s spokesman.
The components in the kit helped in the treatment of victims of the Jan. 8, 2011, mass shooting on Tucson’s northwest side that killed six and wounded 13, including then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, said Sgt. Chris Widmer. He also said medical personnel in Boston have credited the use of tourniquets with saving victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Officer Anthony Gutierrez, 37, who patrols the south side and has been on the force for 15 years, welcomes the kits.
He has provided medical aid to victims several times using the antiquated kits, waiting for paramedics who have been held back until the scene is secured.
In one instance, Gutierrez explained that he used a gunshot victim’s shirt to cover the wound, and applied direct pressure with his hands to stop the bleeding.
“I am very happy knowing there are more tools we can add to our toolbox to provide care,” Gutierrez said.