What’s chilling is that everything seems so very ordinary. There’s no ominous music in this film. No high-contrast lighting. So when an actor who looks like your next-door neighbor pulls out a gun and starts shooting — in a warehouse, at a library, in a mall — you feel it in your gut.
“People are very focused…after that video,” says Maria Paulsen, R.N.
Paulsen is the trauma outreach education coordinator at Harborview Medical Center, and the video — called “Active Shooter” — is part of a public training called Stop the Bleed Washington.
If you’re at the scene of a mass casualty, a bystander at an accident, or at the site of a natural disaster, you may see someone bleeding profusely. The police and the medics are probably at least several minutes away. Unfortunately, they may also be several minutes too late; bleeding can cause death within five minutes. The premise of Stop the Bleed, a national program developed by leaders at the American College of Surgeons and launched by the White House in 2015, is that bystanders can save lives when trained as first responders.
Harborview’s 2.5-hour Stop the Bleed course, organized by Paulsen and her colleagues, includes that active shooter video. After learning how to stay safe, attendees learn how to stop the bleed with tourniquet application and wound-packing.
Eddie Smith manages contracts at UW Medicine, and he’s one of many people involved in disaster preparedness at Harborview. So when he heard about the class, he signed up. “I work at a trauma center,” he told himself. “It’d be good to have some of these skills.”
Still, he had to overcome some queasiness and a lack of confidence. According to Eileen Bulger, M.D., FACS, Res. ’99, Fel. ’00, Harborview’s chief of trauma, some potential first responders have to get over the fear of intervening: They worry that they’ll hurt the person who’s bleeding. But learning calms those worries. “One of the advantages of these types of courses is that you do it in a controlled setting,” she says.
Training is a central part of Stop the Bleed Washington. So is the distribution of bleeding control kits. Paulsen has been busy meeting with organizations, including Safeco Field, Sound Transit, and local school districts, hospitals and neighborhood centers, encouraging them to get trained and get kits. Thus far, hundreds of people have signed up for trainings. She and her colleagues even took Stop the Bleed to Olympia, Washington, in January 2018, setting up education stations at the capitol and meeting with legislators to promote the program.
Smith can vouch for having learned a lot from the Stop the Bleed program. Coming into the class, he says, “I would totally have done it wrong.” But after? He’s confident. And ready. “It’s an incredible skill to have,” he says.