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Some images naturally invoke a visceral revulsion. Little will get your adrenaline flowing faster than the sight of large amounts of human blood, particularly if it is your own.

Blood is actually considered a separate organ for anatomical purposes. In the case of violent trauma, its loss is the most frequent kill mechanism. It is exsanguination, or “bleeding out,” that most commonly gets you after a gunshot wound or similar penetrating trauma.

A typical adult circulates about 5 liters of blood. Lose 1 liter in half an hour and you are impaired. Make that 2 liters in the same time frame and it could be potentially lethal. When blood is flowing freely from a wound, all you want to do is make it stop. When the wound is on an extremity and conservative measures fail, the solution is a tourniquet.

The use of a tourniquet in the real world is fraught with risk. Leave it on too long and you can lose the limb. However, when the situation is dire, it can be a literal lifesaver. The best sort of tourniquet is designed so that a user can apply it solo in a pinch. The Rapid Application Tourniquet System (RATS) is designed by a career spec-ops operator and is the pinnacle of the art.

Lightweight Lifesaver

Rapid Application Tourniquet System, Rapid Application Tourniquet System (RATS), blood loss
“Two years, 26 prototypes and countless hours of testing later, the RATS system was perfected.”

Jeff Kirkham spent 27 years in uniform with the U.S. Special Forces. He also worked as a private security contractor in Iraq and Afghanistan. After observing trained medics struggling to use their issued tourniquet system effectively under stress and in the dark, he decided that the world needed a better option. Two years, 26 prototypes and countless hours of testing later, the RATS system was perfected.

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Realizing that several separate strands were more effective than a single band, Kirkham designed his device to be easy to use under stress and more effective than existing contrivances. The RATS system is comprised of a 0.5-inch flat, rubber bungee cord attached to a specially designed aluminum cleat. When properly applied, the RATS compresses the required 1.5- to 3-inch band of tissue for satisfactory restriction of blood flow.

Rapid Application Tourniquet System, Rapid Application Tourniquet System (RATS), blood loss
“Practice with the RATS, understand the theory and the anatomy, and then pray that your grandchildren throw it away unused 60 years from now after you’re gone.”

Use of the RATS system is simple and intuitive. Start with a loop, wrap the bungee around the limb tightly and secure the end with the attached cleat. Each RATS tourniquet comes with an illustrated instruction sheet.

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You train and prepare for unpleasant eventualities in the hope that you will never have to use your gear and skills for real. In the case of the RATS tourniquet, this is an exceptionally well-designed, last-ditch survival tool for those times when life really goes sideways. I now keep one in my medical clinic.

Practice with the RATS, understand the theory and the anatomy, and then pray that your grandchildren throw it away unused 60 years from now after you’re gone. If life throws you a curveball, however, and the blood from a wound is flowing freely, one of these simple devices can literally keep you or those you care about out of the morgue. The entire rig costs about $15. That seems like pretty well-spent money to me.

For more information, visit http://www.ratstourniquet.com or call 206-851-0537.

 

This article was originally published in the SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Spring 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.

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