Serious Tools For Serious Times
Tactical Medical Solutions is a producer of quality emergency medical equipment that is purpose designed for military, law enforcement, and wilderness applications. This comes as no surprise as the CEO, and the Director of Research and Development, are both former Special Forces Medical Sergeants (18D) with combat experience. They have designed and produced a wide range of medical and rescue equipment that is based on real world experience. Like all medical equipment, theirs is meant to be used by people who have received a certain level of training and can utilize them proficiently. In other words… “Don’t try this at home. We are highly trained professionals.” The interesting thing about Tactical Medical Solutions is that they offer free training videos on their web site. This, in my opinion, is probably just as valuable as the product itself.
After watching the videos on the various products, I feel that a person of average intelligence could figure out how to effectively utilize the products. Practice is essential however; no amount of self-training can replace the hands on training of a professional.
I was given the Olaes Modular Bandage and the SOF Tactical Tourniquet to review. Both products are featured on their website and have training videos to accompany them.
Olaes Modular Bandage – 6 inch
This bandage is a modern version of the traditional compression bandage but is much more versatile and offers a wider range of applications (more on that later). Like its predecessor, it is used to stop or slow down major bleeding (hemorrhage) from a very serious wound such as a gunshot, stabbing, shrapnel, or other mechanism that is life threatening. Without going into the deep physiological reasons as to why a pressure bandage works, the basic action should stop or slow down the bleeding by absorbing blood and adding pressure against the bleeding wound. This will help create a clot and maintain blood pressure. All of this equates to hemodynamic stability and therefore increases the odds of survival.
The Olaes Modular Bandage is a sterile bandage, vacuum packed to decrease its overall size for compact storage. The front of the package is clearly marked as to what it is. This may sound mundane, but it is important to know what you are pulling out of your first aid kit when your buddy is bleeding to death and every second counts. The backside has rudimentary illustrations and written directions for application. Once removed from the packaging, the bandage is found neatly rolled and contained by a disposable paper sleeve and is about the size of a 12oz. can. The paper is removed and the first of the many improvements over the traditional compression bandage becomes apparent. There are loop and pile (Velcro) “breaks” on the bandage to prevent it from unrolling spontaneously therefore giving the user a greater degree of control. I think the Olaes would be better termed as a bandage “system” because it is so versatile. The bandage padding is actually a pocket that contains about 10 feet of four-ply absorbent gauze and a 12 inch square piece of occlusive dressing (non-latex plastic).
Both of these can be removed and used for specific types of injuries. The gauze can be packed into deep wounds or used in conjunction with the rest of the bandage for entry/exit wounds. The occlusive dressing can be used to treat chest wounds where the lungs have been punctured and air is seeping in through the opening. This will help maintain the necessary negative pressure in the lung fields. There is a clear plastic cup attached to the back of the bandage that has three or more uses. During normal use it will add direct pressure to the center of the bandage and can be used as a “window” to check for the progression of bleeding. It can also be used as a protective cup for eye injuries. An elastic wrap with loop and pile, and a built in plastic clip, secures the bandage.
The Olaes is available from Tactical Medical Solution in a 4 and 6 inch version and can be purchased directly from their website.
The SOF Tourniquet is also a modern version of an ancient device. Tourniquets can only be used on arms and legs, and special training is required to use them effectively. Tactical Medical Solutions offers two instructional videos for free on their web site that give the very basics of how to apply the tourniquet. However, if you are applying a tourniquet, the victim needs to be evacuated to a hospital immediately.
The tourniquet I received is the “tactical” model. It is all black and is also available as a Wilderness/Rescue version with bright orange webbing for easier visibility. When I first opened the tourniquet, I have to admit that I was confused by the appearance. However, after I watched the video on the website it suddenly became clear how it is meant to be used. This lightweight, highly effective device is designed to be carried by the individual and can be applied with one hand with minimal practice. In other words, if you have a wound to your arm, it is designed to be put on single handedly.
The tourniquet is applied to the extremity above the wound and the nylon webbing is initially tightened easily though a strong metal clip that has a locking screw to prevent accidental loosening. Additional pressure is then applied by turning a nicely machined aluminum rod (windlass) that is then secured in place with heavy plastic triangular rings. The entire device is lightweight and well constructed with reinforced stitching in appropriate places. Their website states the tourniquet has been tested by US Army Institute of Medical Research and found to be “100% effective”. Having tested it on myself, I have no doubt, if used properly, it will significantly reduce, or stop, the flow of blood to the extremity it is applied.
As compared to the tourniquet that was adopted by the US Army known as the Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT), I would say the SOF has some advantages in the fact that accidental loosening is not as likely with the SOF. The CAT uses a series of loop and pile (Velcro) connections to lock the windlass. In my opinion, this creates potential for accidental loosening during movement of the victim especially in a tactical or wilderness environment.
Findings and Recommendations
Both the Olaes Modular Bandage and the SOF Tourniquet are excellent products. They have been carefully designed based on real world experience. I can only make conjecture as to the actual effectiveness as I could not get any of the Woods Monkey staff to “volunteer” for any field tests that I had in mind. However, given my experience as a Combat Medic and Physician Assistant, I would not hesitate to use either product and think they would be an excellent addition to any medical kit. I do recommend that anyone considering the purchase and use of these products receive formal training on their use. These are truly serious tools for serious times. Knowing how to use them effectively can save a life… maybe your own.
You can purchase these and all of their products directly from www.tacmedsolutions.com
Author Notes: The Olaes Modular Bandage was named after SSG Tony B. Olaes. SSG Olaes died in Shkin, Afghanistan on September 20, 2004. His patrol vehicle was ambushed by enemy forces using small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He served as a medic under Ross Johnson, CEO of Tactical Medical Solutions.