Why correctional officers need medical training

As custodial staff, we may be on our own; this is why we all need to know how to care for traumatic injuries at the scene


By Harriet Fox

We are not on the battlefields overseas in the desert, or working SWAT entering occupied dwellings, or coming face-to-face with guns in an active shooter situation.  But the danger in our job is real and at any time one of our lives can be threatened.

If that happened, could you save your partner’s life? What level of first aid certified are you? Are you trained only in basic first aid?  Advanced CPR? Do you find you rely on your medical staff?

Is your medical staff trained for trauma care or for critical trauma incidents?  The majority of RN’s do not go through critical trauma training to be a nurse.

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If this is the case at your facility, how far away will the closest EMS personnel be responding from?  How far is the nearest fire department? The national average of EMS response is between 8-9 minutes.

And even if you have access to trained medical staff or EMS personnel, will they even respond if the scene is not safe?

Terrifying statistics
If one of us sustains a slash, stab or puncture wound to an area near an artery: 4-6 minutes, dead. 

Four to six minutes.

We bleed out with a loss of half the approximate five liters of blood we have in our body.

With a pod takeover or riot, an uncontained inmate with a weapon or any other dangerous potential for violence, as custodial staff, we may be on our own.

I envision a pod takeover and two correctional staff locked in a bathroom or closet awaiting assistance.

Inmates and gang members train on how to injure correctional officers.  Drawings and directives have been confiscated after they were located in inmates’ cells depicting drawings of the body with instructions on where to stab, puncture or attack staff.  The locations of the targeted body parts are mostly at arterial bleed areas.

Tactical trauma into civilian life
After the first Gulf War, the Aurora movie theater shooting and other mass casualties, the realization of on-scene care was prevalent in saving lives.  It was determined the fast action and training of the first responders at the Boston Marathon bombing made the death statistics low.

It was identified by the military that the 90 percent of battlefield death is from bleeding out, the inability to breathe, and chest trauma while awaiting transportation to a medical facility.

With the research and statistics, it shows that the most important care is at the time of the injury, at the scene.

I-FAKs
While it would be ideal for every single correctional officer and all jail personnel be trained in tactical trauma care, this is not realistic due to budget.  Some agencies may not even have access to first aid kits that would be sufficient for a life threatening immediate injury.  Some agencies do not have I-FAKs, improved first aid kits, that are carried in a pouch, pocket, or on your belt. 

I-FAKs include a tourniquet, gauze dressings, compression bandages, chest seal, among other supplies.

If your department does not provide gauze or other I-FAK supplies, purchase them and carry on your person.  If it is not on you, you do not have one.

Be prepared
If your agency does not train for tactical trauma care, take the time to learn some basic life-saving techniques in wound care. Depending on where you live, there may be free tactical trauma classes held by local, state or federal agencies.  Have your agencies send one or a few correctional officers to these classes who can return and train the rest of your staff. Just because it has not happened, does not mean it cannot happen. 

Be prepared. Your life or your partner’s life may depend on it. 

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