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Trauma Medicine: How to Use and Apply a Tourniquet

Sara Tipton
July 13th, 2018
Comments (38)

This report was originally published by Sara Tipton at Tess Pennington’s ReadyNutrition.com.

Tess is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint: How To Survive ANY Disaster.

Tourniquets aren’t discussed often when it comes to prepping supplies; the focus seems to be on medical supplies such as antibiotics and a simple first aid kit. But a tourniquet should be added to your gear, and there is one big life-saving reason why. Basic emergency medical skills are a must-have to survive the perils you encounter in a survival situation or possibly even in your own backyard. A tourniquet could save a life or a limb in a dire situation.

First, the proper use of a tourniquet is to stop arterial bleeding on a limb – when an artery is severed and simply applying pressure while waiting for a clot to form won’t work. Proper use of a tourniquet could ensure the saving of a limb, but proper care needs to be taken as well, as misuse could result in the loss of a limb. And a helpful hint: you may need more than one, so add a few to your supply!

Primary Principles of Immediate Response

Wounds that can cause death are often located in the arms and legs, the torso junctional (located in the armpits, groin or neck), and the chest or abdomen which could be an indicator of internal bleeding.

There are a few primary principles to consider when you are controlling a life-threatening hemorrhage. The first of which is to ensure your own safety. Make sure you are out of danger and are in a safe location before you render aid. If you are out of danger, begin using the ABC’s of Bleeding Control:

  • A-Alert 9-1-1
  • B-Locate the bleeding
  • C-Compress and apply pressure to wound

If there is life-threatening bleeding to an arm or leg, you want to apply a tourniquet.

Types of Tourniquets

The common tourniquet used by the army can be purchased on Amazon.  It’s called the Combat Action Tourniquet (CAT tourniquet) and is made for a single-handed (meaning you could use this on yourself) application. The tourniquets run around $30 and aren’t practical for a civilian to carry around in his pocket every day, but could be a vital addition to a prepper supply. The Mgrowth Rescue Tourniquet is a less expensive option, or you could just add a complete trauma kit, such as the Ever Ready First Aid Trauma Pack, which contains other items such as Quickclot, to stop the bleeding quickly and effectively.

Alternatives To Tourniquets

You can also use some critical thinking skills if a tourniquet is needed and you don’t have one on hand. Look around you; there are tourniquets everywhere. Your belt, the laces on your shoes, or a long sleeve shirt could be tourniquets.  A bicycle inner tube, a backpack strap, or a woman’s bra could be used as tourniquets also.  You can fashion this lifesaving device out of almost anything. You could even consider using a rope or a survival bracelet first if you have them handy. In order to tighten your tourniquet, you’ll also need a torsion device. This can be anything long and stick-like. If you’re in the woods I recommend using, well, a stick. If there are absolutely no sticks or stick-like objects around you, then close your knife’s blade, or put the sheet on it, and give it up for a good cause. It’s now your torsion device.

An important note to remember is that a tourniquet will not help in the event of a snake bite and you should never attempt to use one to restrict the blood flow to the area. In case of a snake bite, mark the area so you know how much worse the spread of venom is getting and keep the victim as calm as possible. Never attempt to cut out or suck out the venom as seen in movies either. In this case, you should have a snake bite kit in your first aid kit as part of your survival gear.

Everyday tourniquet use (a first responder may not be available in a SHTF situation, so please keep this in mind).

  • Make sure you wear gloves if you have them to create a blood barrier between yourself and the victim.
  • In some cases, you need to remove the clothing covering the injury so you’ll know exactly what you are dealing with.
  • Apply direct pressure to the wound site. Use gauze on the wound during this step if it’s available. If there is no gauze, use a towel or washcloth or a rag torn from a shirt. Non-sterile bandages can cause infection, however, experts agree that it’s better to stop the bleeding first.

If the pressure you’re applying does not stop the bleeding, and the dressing becomes soaked with blood, then you will need to apply a tourniquet.

  • Tourniquets are ONLY used on limbs! Never on a neck! A tourniquet won’t help with bleeding on the torso. Keep the tourniquet high and tight. The purpose of a tourniquet is to shut down the artery.
  • Twist the torsion device in ONE DIRECTION until the bleeding stops and then secure the tourniquet in place.
  • You need to then check on the person who you’ve just applied the tourniquet to. Make sure they are still breathing.
  • Set a timer so that when (if) a first responder arrives they can be told how long the tourniquet has been in place.

It is important to know how to properly use a tourniquet, and properly assess a person for shock, you should consider taking a class and practicing how to apply one. It could be a life-saving skill, and you will likely want the confidence to use the tourniquet if necessary.

Applying a Tourniquet For a Massive Lower Extremity Bleeding

Applying a Tourniquet to an Upper Extremity

Recent research in military hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan has shown that, contrary to popular belief, using a tourniquet doesn’t guarantee limb amputation or even nerve loss. In fact, researchers found that among patients who had a tourniquet applied to a limb before arriving at the hospital, only 0.4% of them underwent an amputation and usually the reason they got an amputation had nothing to do with the tourniquet. When it comes to nerve damage, only 1.5% of patients who needed a tourniquet suffered any kind of permanent nerve damage. Based on this newfound knowledge, many civilian EMS teachers and practitioners are starting to encourage tourniquet use much sooner.

Skills such as applying a tourniquet could mean life or death for the person being saved. Please ensure you get training if you feel it’s necessary an make an effort to properly stock your prepping supply because let’s face it: none of us knows what can happen when the SHTF!


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Additional Resources:

The Prepper’s Blueprint: The Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Through Any Disaster

The Prepper’s Cookbook: 300 Recipes to Turn Your Emergency Food into Nutritious, Delicious, Life-Saving Meals

Prepper’s Home Defense: Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary

The Survival Medicine Handbook: A Guide for When Help is Not on the Way

SAS Survival Handbook, Revised Edition: For Any Climate, in Any Situation

The Prepper's Blueprint

Tess Pennington is the author of The Prepper’s Blueprint, a comprehensive guide that uses real-life scenarios to help you prepare for any disaster. Because a crisis rarely stops with a triggering event the aftermath can spiral, having the capacity to cripple our normal ways of life. The well-rounded, multi-layered approach outlined in the Blueprint helps you make sense of a wide array of preparedness concepts through easily digestible action items and supply lists.

Tess is also the author of the highly rated Prepper’s Cookbook, which helps you to create a plan for stocking, organizing and maintaining a proper emergency food supply and includes over 300 recipes for nutritious, delicious, life-saving meals. 

Visit her web site at ReadyNutrition.com for an extensive compilation of free information on preparedness, homesteading, and healthy living.

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Author: Sara Tipton
Date: July 13th, 2018
Website: http://readynutrition.com/

Copyright Information: This content has been contributed to SHTFplan by a third-party or has been republished with permission from the author. Please contact the author directly for republishing information.

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  1. cranerigger says:

    Good job Tess Pennington. A femoral artery or other major blood vessel can cause a body to bleed out in a very short time. Informing people about important first aid tools & priorities can save many lives.

    • john stiner says:

      In times long past the train of thought was to release the tourniquet pressure about once an hour to keep the limb from dying, however, that was found to be a mistake. Blood would not make it to the limb with the severed blood vessel anyway because the vein is cut.

      If you loosen the tourniquet, it will only contribute to them bleeding out. Best to leave it on until surgery.

      • TharSheBlows says:

        Every Knucklehead thinks he is a doctor. hey steiner. Veins return blood to the heart and lungs. Arteries are what squirts red blood going out to the extremities. A severed artery is what you want to put a tourniquet on to stop squirting.

    • buttcrackofdoom says:

      learn to put that tourniquet on with ONE HAND. set it up in your firstaid kit so you can pull it out and apply by just giving it a quick thrust(kinda like a bullwhip) to open it. google will probably be your friend with this one. and remember, the patient will be in extreme agony, and want that tourniquet OFF. great article! we will NEED this one SOON!

      • buttcrackofdoom says:

        always treat the victim for shock after ALL medical emergencies. lay down with blanket under AND over, if possible. feet raised above head, and reassuring words. write down time applied, and monitor for ABC’s AIRWAY open, Breathing still, and Circulation.

    • TharSheBlows says:

      Id like to apply a few tourniquets around a few politicians necks. Keep Tightening until they stop lying.

      Its all about blood volume. MAST TROUSERS, and elevating the feet to keep the blood feeding the vital organs. Oxygen added breathing Increases blood 02 count. Always apply direct pressure and put the torniquet between the wound amd the heart. Ive used torniquets while being a FF Paramedic. One guy while painting fell through a big plate glass window and his arms where shreadded and sqirting blood. Saved his life.

    • Eisenkreutz says:

      the infrastructure collapses day by day

      many parts of america look like a third world country

  2. If I use my belt, my pants will fall down. 😟


  3. rellik says:

    I wish they’d make up their minds.
    I was taught in the Military how to use a tourniquet and we periodic refresher classes that taught the use of tourniquets.
    I worked at an Aerospace company after leaving the military, and we received CPR and first aid classes every 3 years due the type of work did( around High voltage and large moving things environment). The Red Cross certified us and they told us NOT to use tourniquets.
    I moved on to work in a remote research area, We got certified at the usual interval still no tourniquet allowed.
    Now they want to use tourniquets again.
    BTW CPR has really changed over the years also. Defibrillators and different techniques.

    I keep Israeli battle bandages on hand, they are pressure bandages, they aren’t cheap, but they work anywhere on your body hands off once applied. If someone cut or ripped off a limb, I would certainly use a tourniquet, my Red Cross certifications are out of date so I can do what I think is best now and I’d revert to the Military way of doing things.

    • Old Sailor says:

      I recently took a course on treating gunshot wounds taught by a retired SF Medic with 30 years experience (and 4 Purple Hearts). He and the good Dr. in the video don’t agree. The medic taught us to put the first tourniquet “high and tight”. A second tourniquet, if needed, is then placed below the first. I believe I’ll go with the guy in the field that has actually put tourniquets on and not the guy in the hospital that takes them off.

      I keep tourniquets and Israeli bandages both in my kit, along with different clotting agents.

    • Hog Jowl Homestead says:

      Had red cross certification today, teaching no tourniquet still. Military training was better, head tilt jaw thrust, look feel and listen. Why they didnt teach that today or sternum chest rub is beyond me. A well it was free through work and i got paid for it. Big plus it was in air conditioning.

  4. One thing that I was taught is that the victim will complain about the tightness of the tourniquet and might try to loosen the tourniquet. You need to watch the victim to ensure that they don’t do this. Once applied, the tourniquet should be removed only by someone trained to do so.

  5. Menzoberranzan says:

    Good article. I’m glad they threw in there to never use a tourniquet around anyone’s neck. (For the sheeple)

  6. BigB says:

    Excellent article. I was not aware that a tourniquet should not be used on a snake bite.

  7. Dead Meat says:

    I’m glad to see that SHTFPLAN is giving some SHTF advice. ‘Bout time…

  8. Traitor Hator says:

    I’ve always thought that putting ice packs on the neck arteries to the brain would cool it slightly and avoid brain cell damage during high fever. For fluid in lungs ,elevate foot of bed at least 12 or as many inches the patient can stand. For Gravity effect. Starting fluid to knock out patient for pain full operation. Good painters blue tape for cuts. After you slap an iron to it.

  9. 2012 Is Now says:

    Speaking of trauma, have any of you heard about the Proud Boys?
    Anyone that enjoys beating the shit out of Antifa is okay in my book.
    These guys live to fuck with Antifa.
    They go to Antifa demonstrations and give them good, right-wing ass whuppings.
    Support your local Proud Boys.

  10. GenWom says:

    Not mentioned is the SWAT-T tourniquet which can also be used with gauze to make a compression bandage.

    And Celox is leagues better than Quik-Clot. Your body can break down Celox, Quik-Clot has to be removed from any wound.

  11. panhandle rancher says:

    Snake bite kits are less than worthless, they can actually cause harm. I know of no one other than the author of this post who actually recommends stocking snake bite kits.

  12. Asshat says:

    No need to buy anything can make a tourniquet out of a t shirt and a stick. One thing I learned in scouts is survival first aid. Chances are it’s all you will have to get the job done.

  13. Keep the “patient” close to the ground or floor because loss of blood causes people to faint. When people faint, they can fall hard hitting their head.


    • Anonymous says:

      Help I’ve fallen and I can’t reach my beer.
      Tonight Venus and Moon appear together just after sunset.
      A spectacular event
      Be here or be queer!

    • Traitor Hator says:

      Many times people crowd around a sick person , which naturally deprives the oxegen level in the area. And I’ve heard from paramedics that oxygen is a cure all.

  14. Asshat says:

    What about treating shock

  15. Doc2 says:

    Bike inner tubes cut into different width strips work well – especially on big thighs…

  16. Wonder9 says:

    I just took a 27 hour class with Tactical Defense Institute in Ohio. This included three hours of TCCC training. A tourniquet needs to be 2 inches wide and must be able to be cranked down with a windlass. Therefore nearly all belts are impossible to correctly use as they cannot be torqued down and this won’t stop the bleeding. (Pressure bandage, yes. Tourniquet, no.) Additionally shoelaces are too thin. The instructor to the class is an EMT and LEO. He carried a trauma kit in an ankle holster. It included a full sized CAT tourniquet. The CAT and SOFT-T are the only two approved by the US military. For most applications I’ll stick with combat tried and true brands. The exception would be small children. These two tourniquets likely won’t crank down tight enough for tiny arms and legs. Triangle bandages make great tourniquets (I have a bruise from practice to prove they get tight). Use the flashlight you carry as your windlass and you don’t need to add much to your EDC to always have a tourniquet at the ready. I’m guessing the bandana I carry every day would work similarly to the triangle bandage even though it’s not as long. Glad to see an article on this topic.

    • Beaumont says:

      This was just a commercial, for their brand of belt.

      For starters, if you have the thing cranked to the point of no distal pulse, you will have nerve damage, by default; that would be like initiating a surgical amputation.

      These people and their methods are dangerous, regardless of who endorses it.