I’ve been around guns a long time, ever since I first learned to shoot I’ve built up quite an impressive collection over my years as a final insurance policy on the world going to shit. And let me tell you, tensions out there have never been higher. People are frustrated, emotionally exhausted, and considering just how many citizens are armed right now, I’m wondering how many people actually know what to do if they’ve been shot?

Because the chances you’ll take a gunshot wound are higher than ever. Whether it’s from the desperate father trying to put food on his table, to the police officer who imagines you’re a threat for no reason whatsoever. Knowing the right way to treat a gunshot wound is a life-saving skill, that you could use to keep a loved one alive should they find themselves on the wrong end of a bullet. Here’s what you need to know.

Remember to S.T.O.P.

When you’re in crisis mode it can be easy to get tunnel vision and forget to take proper precautions. If you’ve got someone bleeding on the ground in front of you, I want you to remember to STOP before you do anything else. That means….

  • Stop what you’re doing and take a breath, you need to calm down quickly.
  • Take a look around to determine it’s safe to help, and you won’t get shot too.
  • Organize a shirt or something to put immediate pressure on the wound.
  • Phone 911, do it yourself or get someone nearby to call for help.

 While you’re waiting for help to arrive, you can also start the treatment process.

Check for any signs of life

The first thing you want to determine is if the victim is still alive. Look for any signs of life, like movement, groaning or breathing. A mirror held in front of their mouth will fog if they’re still breathing, or you could use two fingers held to the side of their neck to check for a pulse. The goal here is to determine if they need to be given CPR or not. If you’re not seeing any signs of life you’re going to want to lie them down on a flat, hard surface and begin chest compressions to keep their blood flowing. The rough rule of thumb is about 100 to 120 chest compressions a minute, with two rescue breaths every 30 seconds. That means following the beat of a song like “Staying Alive” as you perform CPR.

Put pressure on the wound

Using a balled-up shirt, or whatever other material you’ve got, you want to put as much pressure on the gunshot wound as possible to stem the blood loss. If you’re already doing chest compressions get a nearby onlooker to help, and remember to not just ask for “help.” People freeze up in emergency situations, so whenever you’re asking someone to do anything, point them out directly. I’d say something like, “You, in the red shirt, grab this and help apply pressure on the wound right here.” It’ll snap them out of it so they start helping. Oh, and check for an exit wound too. You may need to apply pressure from both sides.

Consider cutting off circulation

If the gunshot wound is in an arm or a leg and won’t stop bleeding, consider cutting off the circulation to slow the blood loss. You can use a belt as a makeshift tourniquet, or a product like one of these - just until help arrives. Tie it tightly above the area of the wound, and pull it as tight as you can to cut off all the blood flow. You’ve got about 2 hours before the nerves, muscles and flesh will be permanently damaged, but if it’s only needed for a short time, a tourniquet can be a great way to stem the blood loss until help arrives.

Plug the gunshot wound

Depending on how far away help is going to be, you may need to plug the gunshot wound yourself. Look for something small and absorbent that can fill the hole that’s been made, a tampon is ideal, but if not a small strip of cloth can also do the trick. Inserting it into the wound won’t be comfortable for the victim, but it’ll help slow the blood loss that’s happening from inside the wound, and keep them alive a little longer. I’d sterilize whatever you’re pushing into the wound if you can, but if not, your main priority is to stop the bleeding. Once you’ve plugged it, get the pressure back on again, and the blood flow should start to slow down.

How to tackle a chest wound

A gunshot wound to the chest can actually give a victim trouble breathing if their lung has been punctured. If you see bubbling blood coming from a gunshot wound to the chest, it’s likely they’re suffering from a collapsed lung. In this instance you won’t want to plug the wound, but you’ll need to make a valve so the victim doesn’t suffocate. Find something hard and flat that can act as a stopper, like a driver’s license or a credit card, and place it directly over the wound. Tape just one edge down, so it can rise slightly like a flap, and you’ve just made what’s known as an occlusive dressing. It’ll help the victim breathe as the plastic will seal the hole on every breath, while still allowing some air to escape.

It’s a scary thing to see a gunshot wound in real life, but with the way our society is going it wouldn’t surprise me if things get a whole lot worse before they get better. And having a little knowledge of what to do if a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger gets shot may make all the difference to keeping them alive until help arrives.

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