Rock Beats

Bleeding edge: SABA program prepares police officers for medical emergencies

A standard issue tourniquet for Round Rock Police Officers

On Sept. 24, Round Rock Police Sgt. Nate Zoss arrived at the scene of a collision between a motorcycle and another vehicle. The motorcycle rider was badly injured with a good portion of his leg essentially amputated. Sgt. Zoss realized that pressure alone would not be enough to stop the extensive bleeding. He immediately applied a tourniquet to the leg. His action likely saved the victim’s life, according to the attending physician at the emergency room.

Sgt. Zoss had the knowledge and the tools to handle this situation thanks to a program the Police Department implemented last year called Self Aid, Buddy Aid (SABA).

Crisis situations
The SABA program includes a four-hour training session with information about wound types and how to treat them. The program began with the department’s Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Team two years ago. In the past year, every officer in the department has attended the training and all new officers are required to attend.

“This training program is really about the basics of what can be done immediately until a person can get to good medical attention,” says Training Sgt. Sean Johnson. “We understand we’re not medical professionals. This program deals more with extreme crisis situations. There are injuries where the right quick action can make the difference between life and death.”

In addition to the training class, every officer in the department is issued two tourniquets and an Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) containing emergency bandages, quick clot gauze to encourage blood to coagulate faster and stop bleeding, chest seals for chest wounds, trauma shears and more.

“Officers are given training on the proper way to use all these items,” says Sean. “We teach about the zones of the body and the way to treat wounds in each area. Sometimes treatment at a crucial moment can allow someone to survive very serious injuries. Every second counts.”

A bright idea
The idea for bringing SABA training to Round Rock came when Round Rock police officers attended a similar training offered by the Texas Tactical Police Officers Association.

“A few of us attended that class and went, ‘Wow, this is something we need,'” says Sean. “We decided to implement a similar program in Round Rock.”

The department gets many of its supplies for the program for free from U.S. military surplus. Sgt. Zoss has been instrumental in getting surplus goods from a special military program.

“We’ve saved several thousand dollars on tourniquets alone,” says Sean.

The SABA course has attracted attention from outside the department as well. Williamson County has sent Department of Public Safety Troopers to attend Round Rock’s course. And the City has supplied tourniquets and IFAKs to the Cedar Park Police Department.

“We’ve had great feedback from everyone who has been through the course,” says Sean. “Officers use the items in the IFAK countless times while on duty. It’s useful and gives peace of mind.”

A piece of the puzzle
The SABA course is just one element of a comprehensive training program for Round Rock police officers. It’s a component that adds to their capabilities and helps them better protect our residents and themselves.

“We readdress this training every year with a one-hour refresher course,” says Sean. “We inspect every officer’s IFAK and restock if necessary. It’s a big picture effort.”

Round Rock is one of the few departments to implement such a program on a department-wide scale.

“We are very lucky to have a chief and a command staff that allow us to pursue this program and think outside the box,” says Sean. “We get to do things that other agencies aren’t doing.”