stopthebleedA campaign to teach the public how to help prevent victims of traumatic injuries from bleeding to death has become the focus of a White House initiative.

The “Stop the Bleed” campaign will encourage bystanders to push hard and apply pressure on wounds sustained by individuals in accidents or at mass casualty scenes until first responders arrive.

The White House held a forum on Tuesday to discuss the initiative, bringing together dozens of partners including medical and public health associations, educational groups, federal agencies and emergency management organizations.

The forum served as a follow-up to a roundtable meeting held by a National Security Council interagency workgroup this past April to discuss how best to empower bystanders at emergency scenes. The group selected bleeding as a key focus area because of how common the problem can be in everyday emergencies like vehicle accidents. It also has been a concern during natural and manmade disasters – such as tornadoes and, increasingly, mass shootings.

“They wanted something that our community could do in those critical first few minutes before a first-response team arrived,” said a participant at the spring meeting, Elliott Antman, M.D., professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.

“Bleeding had the greatest potential impact and it would deal with the preparedness that we all, unfortunately, have to face these days in horrible traumas.”

Examples cited during the April gathering include the Boston Marathon bombing and the shooting rampage at Washington, D.C.’s Naval Yards as occasions where civilians aided bleeding victims by using their own T-shirts, belts or other pieces of clothing to help stem the hemorrhage until professional aid arrived.

The White House hopes that the “Stop the Bleed” mantra and message will catch on and become as easy to remember as “Stop, Drop and Roll” and “See Something, Say Something.”

Antman, the immediate past president of the American Heart Association, said the “Stop the Bleed” campaign is aimed at providing the public with a battle plan for a specific emergency.

“If we can enhance bystander preparedness for stopping life-threatening bleeds in the field, we avoid the tragic loss of a person’s life,” he said. “We owe each other this as a community.”

Comilla Sasson, M.D, Ph.D., an emergency room physician, said she’s attended too many individuals “who end up dying because they bled out at the scene.”

Simple acts from bystanders could have saved many of those lives, she said.

“It’s not that people didn’t want to help, they just didn’t know what to do. Something as simple as putting pressure on a wound can save a person’s life, and people don’t realize that, or they worry about hurting the person,” said Sasson, AHA’s director of community markets and programs for Emergency Cardiovascular Care, and associate professor at the University of Colorado’s department of emergency medicine.

The White House has tapped the AHA to help promote the “Stop the Bleed” campaign because of the organization’s success with the “Hands-only CPR” campaign. AHA has been credited with helping to spread word about the live-saving technique, which has been a popular alternative to the more traditional CPR method that involves mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.