Free class prepares regular citizens to become immediate responders

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Editor's Note: Deborah Takahara took this class and gives us her perspective on what she learned.

DENVER — An hour and fifteen minutes may be all it takes to help save someone's life. The Paramedic Division at Denver Health Medical Center is offering a series of free classes to train people on how to be an effective “immediate responder” in the event of a mass casualty event.

“Trauma victims can quickly die from uncontrolled bleeding, often within five to 10 minutes of the incident,” Denver Health Paramedic Division assistant chief Justin Harper said. Sometimes, paramedics just can't get to the victims in time. So they want regular citizens to be trained to step in and help stop severe bleeding.

Like hundreds of other people, from all walks of life, I was inspired by the Las Vegas mass shooting and the people who jumped in to help the wounded victims. One vendor told me the morning after the shooting, "I saw a woman with no shirt on, people were using clothing to staunch the bleeding."

Harper told our class, "If you`re there and you know to recognize severe bleeding and how to treat it, you are an immediate responder. You are someone who can help, stop the bleeding, you can help save this person`s life."

He went on to describe how to stay safe, how to recognize severe blood loss and how to stop the bleeding. We got hands on training on packing a wound, applying pressure and using a tourniquet.

These are techniques to use before first responders arrive on scene. Paramedics don't want people to be bystanders. They want to arm regular people with some basic skills, and then not be afraid to get involved.

Harper said, "Really when you have a situation loosing large amounts of blood, any sort of intervention that adds pressure to that bleeding or slows the bleeding is going to be something that is beneficial. Very rarely can you do more damage to a person in that situation."

They say this doesn't just apply to terrorist attacks or mass shootings. You could cut yourself in the kitchen at home, or in a car accident. Students in the class say it is well worth your time. Michelle Bradeen said, "If I had to pull over for a car accident or something and had to stop the bleeding, I believe it could do that." Alicia Quintana said, "I thought the presented it in a way I could remember, stay safe, stop the bleeding."

I asked if a refresher course would be needed in the future to practice the techniques, but paramedics say they have surveyed people in the past and say years later, the information sticks with you. I can tell you, it was a powerful presentation.

This class has been extremely popular. They have had teachers, business people, mail carriers and students sign up. They have added additional classes to accommodate the demand. The classes will be held from 5 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. at the Rita Bass Trauma EMS Education Institute at 190 W. Sixth Ave. Those attending the class must preregister online.

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