Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

It’s the first National Stop the Bleed Month, it’s “Tourniquet Tuesday,” it’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and I’ve spent the last six months pressing for supplies for teachers in our school and accumulating Stop the Bleed training as well as equipment for my classroom, and somehow, my newly-issued classroom bleeding control kit contains one real and one counterfeit tourniquet. Where did I go wrong?

In our county, several hundred bleeding control kits were distributed this week; a resounding success in our efforts to become more prepared. Teachers received a 30-minute Stop the Bleed training recently, and a bleeding control kit. This was a huge, wonderful leap from no training and no supplies to having a kit in each classroom.

Update: The kits were removed from classrooms, restocked without the counterfeits, and reissued in time for school to start this year. But read on to hear how this whole seemingly-impossible situation occurred so it doesn’t happen to you, your teachers, your schools, your school district, or your children.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

How Could We Receive Fake Tourniquets

Hopefully, this was only a misguided attempt to save some money and supply our teachers, and can be turned into an educational opportunity for schools and school districts around the country.

That’s what I wrote initially, and I held off publishing this article until I could find out more.

Well, it turned out that was sort of what happened. What happened was our District School Safety Officer was given recommendations from our local Department of Health, a subject matter expert, to leave the inferior tourniquets in our kits. His reasoning was that something was better than nothing.

I’ve been researching non-stop, consulting everyone from medical emergency trainers to attorneys to manufacturers for information. Our safety officer worked with a professional, just as they would work with the Fire Marshall on anything pertaining to our classroom fire extinguishers. It appears the recommendation to leave the counterfeit tourniquets in the kits was negligent and uninformed. Of course, our safety officer is going to phase the fake tourniquets out of the kits as quickly as possible.

Without in-depth training, reading, and researching, someone might not even realize that there is such a thing a counterfeit tourniquet, or how dangerous it is to rely on them. I was fortunate to have undertaken additional crisis training, and knew just enough to keep asking the experts questions.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Why Counterfeit Tourniquets Are Dangerous

Someone erroneously might believe it’s not a big deal to have a fake tourniquet, or that the quality will be just slightly inferior. It’s much, much worse than that according to the trained professionals.

I’m not the expert, however, I have learned that these are tourniquets that could very likely fail. A person can bleed out from a wound in three to four minutes; in less time than emergency professionals can be on hand to assist. That means all tourniquets need to be dependable, tested, and reliable.

Anything from inferior stitching, to an easily breakable windlass, to faulty assembly could go wrong in an emergency. But it is even worse than that.

The problem with counterfeit tourniquets is they can be even more dangerous than improvised tourniquets. Faulty tourniquets can become venous constricting bands – they can accidentally increase bleeding instead of stopping it. This is covered in depth in the Crisis Medicine Tactical Casualty Care Course, this link will give you diagrams and information.

Counterfeits were featured in The CBS Evening News in August of 2015. CBS published a news release and article, “Beware: Counterfeit tourniquets could cost lives” that covered some catastrophic failures of fakes. The real-life accounts are upsetting. I had trouble reading it, it was so awful.

There is such a big market for counterfeits that North American Rescue, a company that produces CAT tourniquets, issued a video covering some of the characteristics to look for when identifying counterfeit tourniquets.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

How I Know Ours Is Counterfeit

As soon as I opened the kit for my room and realized I probably had a fake tourniquet in my hands, I took pictures of it and sent it straight to several experts. I know some experts because I’ve been conducting a lot of research, working very hard on verifying all the information I write.

Then I described what I saw, took some pictures, and sent the photos to them. The safety of my students is worth my attention to detail.

Part of my professional code of conduct reads: “Shall make reasonable effort to protect the student from conditions harmful to learning
and/or to the student’s mental and/or physical health and/or safety.”

We are teachers, and our contracts include statements such as “duties assigned as needed,” and bleeding control training is now one of my duties. My principal has said it’s part of my job; so it is. It’s sad that our duties include professional learning about these topics, but that’s the reality.

Because of the incredible importance of having dependable bleeding control supplies, two of the people I contacted each responded in under five minutes. North American Rescue andCrisis Medicine responded almost immediately. I guess in the medical field; that is how they save lives; by immediate attention. It definitely was a fake.

Experts Identify Counterfeits

As it happened, one of my experts, a doctor, is at the Special Operations Medical Association, SOMA, conference. A second expert’s company’s vice president is also at the conference, as well as Stop the Bleed officials.

The SOMA goal is education and professional development of special operations medical providers. In other words, the biggest names in pre-hospital care in military and civilian providers from around the world were gathered, looking at my photos.

Independently, they identified one of the tourniquets in the kit for my room as a counterfeit, and the second one as real. They are worried that this could happen to any school district in the US. I’ll leave links below to more information about FDA and other sources.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week
A real CAT Gen 7 Tourniquet, April lot number verified by North American Rescue.

Why I Was Suspicious

In an effort to learn as much as possible about bleeding control, I’ve spent hundreds of hours researching. I’ve read and written about everything from chest seals to tourniquets, from how to use your classroom supply money to purchase bleeding control kits, to what to put in your bleeding control kit.

When we were told in a faculty meeting at my school that we were receiving $17 bleeding control kits, I was concerned that we would receive a counterfeit tourniquet. Realistically, I know the lowest price for a real one would be around $24.

In stocking my own kits, I became familiar with prices of tourniquets with the approval of the Tactical Emergency Casualty Care committee. Quality is not inexpensive, and putting together an entire bleeding control kit costs around $50 whether you purchase it pre-made or assemble it yourself.

My Limited Training

I’d been taking a Tactical Casualty Care Class from Dr. Shertz with Crisis Medicine. I knew from his training that fake tourniquets are on the market. I also learned they are untested and have a high potential for failure. Further, I had even researched what dupes would look like, how to spot them, and the problems with them in an effort to become more educated on the subject.

Shertz’s background is as an Emergency Physician, and he’s a founding member of the Guidelines Committee for the Committee on Tactical Emergency Casualty Care. He is certified in Emergency Medical Services, and was a US Army Special Forces Medic, and is an expert in his field. His training made me aware that counterfeits exist, and to be aware of them.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

The Kits We Received

We were told that the kits would be sealed, and we were not supposed to open them due to needing to keep them sterile. I knew from my Crisis Medicine training and from other reading that bullet wounds are not sterile. Most likely, we were not supposed to open them because pieces might go missing, or get “borrowed” from them. We were told if they were opened, to let our school secretary know, and they would be checked or restocked.

I understand that ensuring all items are present is vital. Also, I have learned in my training that seconds count. Our Stop the Bleed trainer told us we have thirty seconds to get that tourniquet on and start tightening. Either I could spend those thirty seconds searching for something to break into the kit, unwrapping the tourniquet, and trying to remember how to assemble it, or do that now.

I chose to open my kit and stage my tourniquets. Seconds count.

When I received my kit, I opened it to see what supplies are in there. Without seeing what there is, I would not know what was in it. There was not a “sample” kit to look over, and I plan to conduct a professional learning community training for my career and technical education department. We need to be familiar with the gear we are given.

Contents of the Kit

In the kit, there is one CAT tourniquet, one counterfeit tourniquet, a pair of nitrile gloves, two 4×4 gauze pads, four 2×2 gauze pads, an elastic bandage, an abdominal pad, medical tape and a permanent marker.

As a side note, I think an inventory list on the contents should be included, as well as a list of which classrooms have kits.

And, by the way, I open my own personal kit and re-familiarize myself with the contents every Monday. EVERY Monday, here’s the link to my check on Monday of last week. Sometimes my students even watch me. It reassures them that I am prepared and have a plan. I have read medical professionals do this daily. I’m a teacher first, but these days, this is now a responsibility of ours as well. It’s part of my job.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Why Schools Are Buying Bleeding Control Kits for Classrooms

As a part of school hardening, our county has been implementing various physical modifications to our campuses for over a year. Classroom doors are now locked during class, entryways have been limited to a few, and other safety measures have been implemented as needed at schools.

The “Stop the Bleed” national awareness campaign promoted in October 2015 encourages every American citizen to learn hemorrhage control with bandages and tourniquets so the population is trained to help save lives.

So, part of this effort to increase school safety includes Bleeding Control training. Every school in our county, mine included, had a thirty minute faculty meeting to introduce bleeding control training and supplies.

Classroom kits are preferable to one large kit in a central location because in the event of an active shooter, schools go on lockdown. In lockdown, everyone is locked in their own room and not able to go retrieve supplies.

Therefore, having a bleeding control kit right in the classroom improves the chance of surviving any type of catastrophic bleeding emergency.

Also, if an active shooter was present, emergency medical technicians will not be able to enter the building until law enforcement “clears” the campus for EMT’s to enter. That will take at least 10 minutes, which is too long.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Our School’s Stop the Bleed Training

Our instructor was from the Florida Department of Health in our county. He covered wound packing using a model and demonstrating what volume of material and what pressure would be necessary.

Also, he covered bleeding control with the use of tourniquets. The trainer used a model of a leg to demonstrate where to place a tourniquet, how tight to make it, and other information. Then he also briefly discussed improvised tourniquets.

The training was quick, but relatively thorough for such a quick demonstration. I took notes, sat in the front, and told him I was writing an article about our bleeding control training. He encouraged us to spread the idea to other teachers that we need training and supplies.

When he told us we would receive a kit with gloves, bandages, gauze, and a tourniquet and that the kit would cost $17 to produce, warnings went off in my head immediately.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Spreading the Knowledge of the Need for Supplies and Training

In my classroom, I have one sealed North American Rescue Bleeding Control Kit with one tourniquet, a North American Crisis Response Kit with four CAT tourniquets, and my own Classroom First Aid/Bleeding Control Kit with three more tourniquets. Eight tourniquets in my room as of now.

I’ve been producing articles weekly, and even articles daily during the week of the 20th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Additionally, I’ve emailed my co-workers with suggestions on items to order, and how to order them. Also, I’ve courtesy copied my principal, members of our guardian program who carry on campus, and even our district safety officer. I want everyone prepared.

Over the last couple months, I’ve even discussed active shooter concerns with the security officer for the School for The Deaf and The Blind in St. Augustine. She is responsible for their entire campus plus all buses including those that make the nine-hour drive from Northeast Florida all the way down to Homestead weekly.

All are under her care and responsibility. She says her students are the softest targets imaginable. She’s even having trouble getting her teachers to lock their doors since her students cannot hear someone knocking. Sometimes when I write, I think of her teachers, and her charges with their special concerns, and I hope to raise awareness in others.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

What Are We Going To Do

I don’t know what we are going to do. I am concerned that schools all over the country are in the same situation – they have tried to get the right supplies for their teachers, but somehow, have accidentally purchased tourniquets that may or may not be approved, be reliable, or be life-savers.

One thing I think we must all do is communicate with other teachers; you need training, you need quality supplies. We need to keep communicating where you can get both of those. Then we have to educate the educators so they will be able to recognize superior training and make good choices.

After all the work, all the trying to spread the word – “get supplies, get training,” and all my warnings about counterfeit tourniquets; I’m holding a counterfeit tourniquet. I can’t believe it. I actually was tempted to purchase one online just so I could see what they are like, and to see if I could tell the difference, to see if I could recognize the signs. Now I see clearly.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Involving School Resource Officers

I’ve made a point of inviting every SRO or visiting deputy to my classroom to show them my kit, get ideas, confirmation, and mainly, to familiarize them with the contents and location.

Not only do I want them to know where my kit is and what it looks like, but, even more importantly; what’s in it. They know either I or an athlete in my class will throw it directly at them or the nearest wall to them so they have it in case of a mob during an event.

My Monday Morning Routine

The first day of school this year, I brought my kit and started my Monday Morning Routine. Every Monday, I open it, re-familiarize myself with the contents and check my headlamp battery.

Familiarity with my kit has been important – not only for me to know where each and every item is located in my kit, but also the ability to direct someone else verbally through my kit, and maybe in the dark, and maybe with sprinklers deployed. 

Just like reviewing underwater hand signals before a dive, my Monday morning procedure brings my mind to fully concentrate on school. With so much information thrown at us daily, a bit of refocus is often necessary. It’s only been recently that teachers have had to increasingly concentrate on topics further from their course subject matter, such as bleeding control and arming doors and run-fight-hide skills.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

What I’m Doing to Prepare

I’ve written articles about my preparedness journey, I’ve videoed blogs about my new gear, unboxings, additions and deletions and my philosophy about exterior shears. No- because in a classroom they will get borrowed and not returned. Then I’ve written articles about what books I’m reading, what courses I’m taking, and what supplies I’m saving to buy.

Then I’ve produced how-to’s for spending government supply and classroom supply money on bleeding control kits. Continually, I’ve contacted and been in touch with reps with MyMedic, North American Rescue, Tactical Medical Solutions, and other companies that supply equipment as well as training.

Next month, I’m even scheduled to address an assembly of Rotarians about bleeding control kits. Not as medical supply equipment expert, and definitely not as an expert medical technician, but as an expert classroom teacher who now finds herself seeking supplies and training. My presentation is supposed to cover selection of supplies for a bleeding control kit as well as training – applicable to any business just as much as a classroom teacher.

Please follow my journey – you can find me here on my blog, or posting daily on Facebook and Instagram, and in my weekly video on YouTube. You can visit my “shop” page to find discounts for a variety of outdoor activities.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please leave them below. I’d love to hear from you.

I’m going to toss several important links below.

, Duped: Given a Fake Tourniquet for My Classroom During National Stop the Bleed Month // Teacher Appreciation Week

Links I Referenced

https://www.jems.com/ems-insider/articles/2015/12/10-tips-to-prevent-liability-from-equipment-failures.html – this link from JEMS Journal of Emergency Medical Services addresses liabihttps://www.medpagetoday.com/productalert/devicesandvaccines/21680 – FDA warning about consumers of fake tourniquetslity prevention

https://www.crisis-medicine.com/not-tourniquet-without-windlass/ – how an inferior tourniquet actually results in a venous constricting band which increases rather than decreases blood loss.

https://thecounterfeitreport.com/product/595/ – this one is from Composite Resources, who manufactures the CAT tourniquets.

Counterfeit C-A-T Combat Application Tourniquets (CAT) | Consumer AlertHow to identify fake C-A-T Combat Application Tourniquets (CAT). Don’t be deceived by a fake, check The Counterfeit Report® before you buy.thecounterfeitreport.com

https://www.medpagetoday.com/productalert/devicesandvaccines/21680 – this one is the FDA warning.

FDA Warns Consumers of Fake Tourniquets – MedPage TodayWASHINGTON — The FDA has notified healthcare professionals and consumers of a number of counterfeit copies of military-grade tourniquets which may break or fail to function as well as the original.www.medpagetoday.com

https://www.rescue-essentials.com/rescue-essentials-blog/beware-fake-cat-tourniquets-on-amazon/ – Rescue Essentials addresses counterfeits

Beware Fake CAT Tourniquets on Amazon – Rescue Essentials.www.rescue-essentials.com

https://medium.com/homeland-security/a-fake-tourniquet-could-cost-your-life-e095821c61f0 – Homeland Security

A Fake Tourniquet Could Cost Your Life – Homeland Security – Medium – Read, write and share stories that matterOn July 14, 2015, an Ocean City, New Jersey patrolman applied a tourniquet to an 18-year old traffic victim’s leg. This action is credited with saving her life. On August 8, 2015, a Florida …medium.com

https://www.nysvara.org/news/2013/july/130717.pdf – extremely detailed photographs comparing both counterfeit and real

http://privatebloggins.ca/?p=670 – a bit of the airsoft information, toys produced and recommendation to only use CoTCCC/CCCWG


 – FDA warning about consumers of fake tourniquets

What to Read Next

Counterfeit Tourniquet Dangers // Would You Trust Your Life to a Dupe? // Surprising Dangers of Fakes

Updated September 7, 2019


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