How Many Tourniquets Should You Carry?
The number of tourniquets you should carry depends on the likelihood you will need to use one, how many people you might need to treat, and how much space you have for carrying tourniquets.
At a minimum, everyone should carry at least one tourniquet. As a maximum, you might carry one tourniquet on each limb and extra tourniquets in your vehicle, workplace, and home (around 10 in total). This mostly applies to emergency responders.
How Many Tourniquets You Should Carry: Role-Specific Guidelines
Your everyday Joe probably doesn't need to carry 10 tourniquets, so how many tourniquets should you carry?
Traumatic injuries can happen anytime, anywhere. To be ready to stem life-threatening bleeding at home, at work, or on the road, it's a good idea to carry at least one tourniquet at all times in addition to a small individual first aid kit (IFAK) for minor injuries and scrapes.
For training, have one additional tourniquet that's the same as the one you carry and keep it in a safe place at home. Mark your training tourniquet with the word "TRAINER" so you don't get confused.
Parents should carry at least two tourniquets—one for themselves and one for each minor that's accompanying them. Every family should also have a bleeding control kit in their vehicle and at home in the kitchen and garage where serious injuries are most likely to occur.
Law Enforcement and Military Members: 2+
There's a saying that if you carry something that can make a hole, you need to carry something that can fix a hole. This applies not only to military personnel but also to civilians and law enforcement officers who carry a pistol or handgun and members of tactical combat teams.
Another saying common among military and first responders is that two equals one, and one equals none. In other words, it is always important to have a backup for any critical gear. As all other police officers and military personnel should also be carrying a tourniquet kit, it's usually sufficient to carry a total of two tourniquets: one for you and one for a civilian, or two for you in case you're shot twice.
In school shootings and playground incidents, educators are often the first on the scene. And sadly, as multiple students and staff members are typically injured in a shooting incident, we'd advise carrying a tourniquet on each limb in addition to stocking a STOP THE BLEED® kit for schools in several places around the school grounds.
Paramedics and EMS: 2+ and more in the vehicle
Emergency medical services teams are officially advised to carry at least one tourniquet for arterial bleeding control. In some states, EMS vehicles are mandated to carry a certain minimum number of tourniquets. As EMS personnel often attend emergencies with multiple victims, it makes sense for each paramedic or rescue worker to carry two tourniquets, with several commercial tourniquets located in various parts of the vehicle itself.
Where to Carry a Tourniquet
There are four places you can carry a tourniquet:
- On your belt
- On your ankle
- In your pocket(s)
- In a pouch on a military vest or plate carrier
Belt. If you're not in the line of fire and might need to grab a tourniquet quickly, the best place to keep it is on your belt. This works well for people who already take a carry with a lighter, knife, and spare mags.
Ankle. For discretion and comfort, secure a tourniquet to one or both ankles with an ankle medical kit or pouch. After a while, it will feel as normal as wearing a watch.
Pockets. If you wear cargo pants or cargo shorts, you can easily keep a tourniquet in each pocket. You can also keep them in any arm pockets on your jacket—one on each arm in case the opposite arm is wounded.
On a vest or plate carrier. Military members often keep a tourniquet on the shoulder of their support arm or on their vest or plate carrier. Remember to have a tourniquet you can grab with either arm for quick self-application.
The best tourniquet placement for you will depend on how many you need to carry and the kind of clothes you wear. Store the tourniquet unpackaged with the windlass inward, toward you, rather than away from you, the strap near its widest position with about a 6” tail, folded for quick deployment and with the clasp securement strap OPEN. This will ensure that you can slip it over the widest part of an extremity quickly.
Which Tourniquets Should You Carry?
To stop an extremity hemorrhage effectively, get only original brand-name tourniquets that have been proven both on and off the field. If possible, have a second tourniquet on hand in case one tourniquet is not enough or you have multiple victims to treat.
At True Rescue, we carry four kinds of tourniquets:
- Combat Application Tourniquet® (C-A-T®). This tourniquet has been used by military members for years and is ideal for one-handed application.
- SAM-XT by SAM® Medical. This tourniquet normalizes the number of windlass turns for easier training and features an auto-locking buckle that eliminates almost all of the slack.
- SWAT-T. This stretch-and-wrap tourniquet is easy to use and is ideal for K-9 and pediatric applications where standard military tourniquets would be too wide.
- SAM® Junctional Tourniquet. This pneumatic tourniquet is designed for use on the inguinal and axillary areas for bleeding control and to immobilize pelvic fractures.
- The Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC) has approved the C-A-T® and SAM-XT tourniquets for use in STOP THE BLEED® kits and trauma kits in public buildings where such kits are mandated by law. While not endorsed by the CoTCCC, we recommend having a SWAT-T on hand as well for treating victims with small limbs.
- In addition to a tourniquet, carry a pair of nitrile gloves for protection along with a pressure dressing, hemostatic gauze, vented chest seal, and possibly a decompression needle. Even if you aren't trained in the use of all of these medical devices, someone else who is trained might pass by the scene and will be able to use it to save your or another person's life.
The Correct Number of Tourniquets Is Never Zero
Statistics have shown time and time again that tourniquets save lives. And with the proper training, a fast response to control bleeding could prevent around 20% of the 600,000 deaths from traumatic bleeding that occur in the United States each year.
First aid kits aren’t enough. If you don't have a tourniquet, stop what you're doing right now, get a bleeding control kit, get trained, and practice your technique until you've mastered tourniquet application. Whether you carry one tourniquet or multiple tourniquets, you'll be ready to save a life.