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Along with sharing important firearm safety tips, the STHS McAllen Trauma Department highlights the importance of Stop the Bleed training for emergencies

There is no denying that firearm deaths and injuries are a serious public problem. In 2020, there were more than 45,000 firearm-related deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Firearm injuries affect people in all stages of life, with firearm-related injuries among the five leading causes of death for people ages 1-44 in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the United States leads the world in civilian gun ownership with a ratio of 120.5 firearms per 100 residents, according to a recent Global Firearms Holdings – Small Arms survey. That amount is more than double that of second-place finisher Yemen, which comes in with a ratio of 52.8 firearms per 100 residents.

Since firearm violence has a tremendous impact on the overall safety and wellbeing of all Americans, physicians with the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute are reminding the community about the importance of firearm safety this National Safety month.

Considering recent events throughout the country, including accidental shootings, health experts are sharing some important gun safety rules for gun owners that should always be practiced.

1. Treat any gun as if it is loaded. Even if you believe a gun is unloaded, treat it as if it is. When handling a gun for any reason, check to see that it is unloaded. If you are unable to check if it is unloaded, leave it alone and seek help from someone more knowledgeable about guns.
2. Keep the gun pointed in the safest possible direction. A “safe direction” is one where an accidental discharge of the gun will not cause injury or damage. Only point a gun at an object you intend to shoot. Never point a gun toward yourself or another person.
3. Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. Always keep your finger off the trigger and outside the trigger guard until ready to shoot. If you are moving around with your finger on the trigger and stumble or fall, you could inadvertently pull the trigger. Sudden loud noises or movements can result in an accidental discharge because there is a natural tendency to tighten the muscles when startled.
4. Know your target, its surroundings and beyond. Check that the areas in front of and behind your target are safe before shooting. Be aware that if the bullet misses or completely passes through the target, it could strike a person or object. If you are in doubt, don’t shoot! Be aware of all the people around you before you shoot.
5. Know how to properly operate your gun. It is important to become thoroughly familiar with your gun. You should know its mechanical characteristics including how to properly load, unload and clear a malfunction from your gun. Obviously, not all guns are mechanically the same. Never assume that what applies to one make or model is exactly applicable to another. You should direct questions regarding the operation of your gun to your firearms dealer or contact the manufacturer directly.
6. Store your gun safely and securely to prevent unauthorized use. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately. When the gun is not in your hands, you must still think of safety. Use a firearms safety device on the gun, such as a trigger lock or cable lock, so it cannot be fired. Store it unloaded in a locked container, such as a lock box or a gun safe. Store your gun in a different location than the ammunition. For maximum safety you should use both a locking device and a storage container.
7. Never handle a gun when in an emotional state such as anger or depression. Your judgment may be impaired.
8. Never shoot a gun in celebration (the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve, for example). Not only is this unsafe, but it is generally illegal. A bullet fired into the air will return to the ground with enough speed to cause injury or death.
9. Do not shoot at water, flat or hard surfaces. The bullet can ricochet and hit someone or something other than the target.
10. Guns, alcohol and drugs don’t mix. Alcohol and drugs can negatively affect judgment as well as physical coordination. Alcohol and any other substance likely to impair normal mental or physical functions should not be used before or while handling guns. Avoid handling and using your gun when you are taking medications that cause drowsiness or include a warning to not operate machinery while taking this drug.
11. Always wear ear and eye protection when shooting a gun. The loud noise from a fired gun can cause hearing damage, and the debris and hot gas that is often emitted can result in eye injury.
In addition, the South Texas Health System Trauma & Critical Care Institute encourages all members of the community to learn how to learn how to recognize life-threatening bleeding and act quickly and effectively to control bleeding.

The American College of Surgeons launched a special Stop the Bleed® course for its members in October 2016. Since then, it has expanded to the public, with millions having taken part in the training. With continuing gun violence across the nation, the program continues to empower all people to make a difference in a life-threatening emergency.
“A person can bleed out in just five minutes,” says Dr. Carlos H. Palacio, MD, FACS, Trauma Director, South Texas Health System McAllen, the first Level II trauma center in Hidalgo County. “When this course is complete, the community is empowered to be lifesavers, basically. They will help reduce the number of casualties by decreasing the exsanguination period for a patient. So, by the time paramedics arrive, they should have good blood pressure and a good amount of blood still in their system and we will be able to continue our work with the patient when they arrive at the hospital.”

The first step is to ensure your own safety. After that, the ABCs of Stop the Bleed include:

A is for Alert:
Call 911 or direct someone nearby to make the call.

B is for Bleeding:
Identify the source of the bleeding. Open or remove clothing so the wound is visible and look for a life-threatening bleed (including squirting blood, blood that won’t stop rushing out, blood pooling on the ground, clothing/bandages soaked in blood). A life-threatening bleed must be compressed immediately.

C is for Compress:
One way to control bleeding is applying direct pressure. If the bleeding is from an extremity – arm or leg – use a tourniquet. Apply the tourniquet two inches above the bleeding site, pull on it as tightly as possible, secure the free end, twist on the rod until the bleeding stops, secure the rod and note the time the tourniquet was applied.

Note: if a tourniquet is not available, or the injury is not to an extremity (for example, if it’s to the neck, shoulder or groin) use gauze or any clean cloth to pack the wound and apply steady direct pressure until paramedics arrive.

South Texas Health System McAllen’s Trauma Department travels throughout the Rio Grande Valley to conduct complimentary STOP THE BLEED training in English and Spanish for community groups, schools and more. Anyone 16 and older can take part in the training. If interested in scheduling a session, you can contact South Texas Health System McAllen’s Injury Prevention Coordinator at 956-632-4929.

About South Texas Health System
South Texas Health System is a multi-facility healthcare system serving patients throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The system includes four acute care facility campuses with specialties in pediatrics, heart and vascular services, maternity and women’s health and trauma services. Inpatient and outpatient treatment for behavioral health needs and addictive disorders is also provided through the system’s South Texas Health System Behavioral facility. South Texas Health System is affiliated with the South Texas Clinical Partners ACO, Prominence Health Plan, and Cornerstone Regional Hospital. The system operates an advanced Level II Trauma Center at South Texas Health System McAllen, the first and only freestanding children’s facility and pediatric ER at South Texas Health System Children’s, the region’s only freestanding heart hospital and specialized cardiac ER at South Texas Health System Heart, and six freestanding emergency rooms located in and around Weslaco, Mission, Edinburg, McAllen and Alamo. For more information about the system and its comprehensive services, please visit

Physicians are independent practitioners who are not employees or agents of South Texas Health System. The hospital shall not be liable for actions or treatments provided by physicians.

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