Know How to Stop the Bleed

At any time, an accident, natural disaster or other emergency situation can result in you or someone near you experiencing an injury with extensive bleeding. Because bleeding is the No. 1 cause of preventable death after injury, it’s good to be prepared with the knowledge and tools that can help save your life or someone else’s.

If someone around you is experiencing bleeding, follow these steps.

1. Make sure you are safe. 

If the situation is unsafe, move to safety, taking the victim with you if you’re able and uninjured. Once you know you’re safe, call 911.

2. Find the source of the bleeding.

Meliam Gonzales, an injury prevention specialist at Hackensack Meridian Health, says the location of the injury dictates whether you will be able to use a tourniquet or need to pack the wound and/or apply pressure.

  • If the injury is on the neck, armpit or pelvic area: For areas that can’t be bound with a tourniquet, pack the wound with either gauze or a clean cloth, such as a T-shirt, and apply pressure. The other areas, such as your chest to abdominal region, cannot be bound or packed, and the best thing you can do is alert first responders upon their arrival of the person’s injuries.
  • If the injury is somewhere on the upper or lower extremities: If the injury is on the arm or leg, a tourniquet is the best option. A tourniquet is a device used to apply pressure to a limb or extremity to limit blood flow. Some public sites have Stop the Bleed kits where their AED kits are located, which contain tourniquets, says Tom Calimano, director of emergency preparedness at Hackensack Meridian Health. He recommends buying a professional tourniquet and keeping it on you at all times. If you don’t have one, a belt or tie can be a last resort, but they are prone to breaking.

3. Once a wound is fully packed, apply pressure and hold.

“Don’t check to see if bleeding has stopped,” Meliam says. “Wait until help arrives before removing pressure.” The same goes for a tourniquet: Do not remove after placement.

What Is Stop the Bleed?

Stop the Bleed is a national awareness campaign and call to action presented by the U.S. Department of Defense. It is intended to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives.

No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. Those nearest to someone with life-threatening injuries are best positioned to provide first care.

Next Steps & Resources:

  • For more information about the Stop the Bleed course, email trauma@hmhn.org.


The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.

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