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Shark Attacks on the Rise: How Tourniquets Save Lives

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Climate change has greatly affected weather patterns and some of the various meteorological crises we have experienced in recent years that required emergency measures. Animal migration patterns, too, have been affected by climate change.

For example, scientists have noticed a change in sharks’ migration patterns in recent years. In some parts of the world, some shark populations have declined due to changes in their habitats and behaviors.

Sharks also are regularly turning up in places where they were rarely seen before. In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, for example, shark sightings and attacks are on the rise. This phenomenon is likely the result of sharks swimming closer to the shore and taking victims.

Numerous experts say sharks do not attacks people on purpose. They say that changes in migration patterns are bringing sharks into closer contact with humans.

Emergency Management Agencies Should Prepare for More Shark Attacks

Coastal emergency management agencies especially should consider preparing for more shark attacks in the future. Although most agencies do have such plans in place, they might want to drill more often to make sure their personnel are well prepared for such incidents.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have changed the way emergency medicine professionals handle massive bleeding or hemorrhaging. The use of tourniquets is now the recommended and immediate treatment for uncontrolled bleeding.

Because shark bites cause massive hemorrhaging, individuals treating such an injury should use a tourniquet to control the bleeding. In one instance, when a shark bit a surfer who happened to be a trauma nurse, the victim instructed bystanders to use a tourniquet and reduced his blood loss.

As a result of this protocol change, most ambulances now carry tourniquets. These tourniquets have already saved numerous lives.

By training for shark attacks and using tourniquets, emergency personnel will spot gaps in their training and improve how they handle such emergencies in the future. Additional efforts are underway to train the public as well on tourniquet usage.

Allison G. S. Knox teaches in the fire science and emergency management departments at American Military University and American Public University. Focusing on emergency management and emergency medical services policy, she often writes and advocates about these issues. Allison serves as the At-Large Director of the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Secretary & Chair of the TEMS Committee with the International Public Safety Association and as Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees with Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in Social Sciences. Prior to teaching, she worked for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. and in a Level One trauma center emergency department. Passionate about the policy issues surrounding emergency management and emergency medical services, Allison often researches, writes and advocates about these issues. Allison is an emergency medical technician and holds four master’s degrees.

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