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What's so important about citizenAID?

In a new regular column, we ask some of the people involved in citizenAID to explain their motivations for being involved with the charity. First up is citizenAID trustee, Matt Fernley.

When I joined the citizenAID charity as a trustee I was the only one of the core group that was neither a medic or a member of the armed forces (or both). In fact, I’ve never had any medical training whatsoever, so why is someone like me in an organisation like this, trying to teach people first aid?

Well, I suppose it all goes back to the days after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005. Like most Londoners I use public transport to get to and from work and like most Londoners I decided that I wasn’t going to let the terrorists govern how I lived my life and I was going to get back on the Tube. But in the scary days after 7/7 there were lots of questions flitting through my head – Is it going to happen again? Is it going to happen to me? But more importantly – What would I do if it happened to me?

While, as time passed, the concerns about it happening again started to fade, the key question remained – What would I do if it ever happened to me? And the answer was – I don’t have a clue!

I carried on not having a clue for quite a long time. Life went on. I changed jobs a few times, had a few holidays, got on with life and eventually drifted into writing a book. My book was (and still is, because I’m only halfway through it!) on the subject of military medical advances during the war in Afghanistan. Don’t ask how I got into this subject, because the answer to that is an essay in itself! Suffice to say I’ve done quite a lot of research.

And what that research pointed to is a step change in how injuries are treated in a military context, which has resulted in a significant increase in what medics call “survivability” and a decrease in what they call “avoidable deaths”.

While this can be attributed to a number of improvements in equipment, techniques and procedures, two changes stand out for me:

  1. The issue of CATs (Combat Application Tourniquets) to EVERY British soldier in 2006 was a turning point. This followed the adoption of a new treatment methodology for what medics call catastrophic bleeding (and what the rest of us call bleeding to death!) by the Defence Medical Services. In the past, the treatment methodology for trauma in both civilian and military practice was ABC (where medics dealt with issues in the patient’s Airway, then their Breathing and finally their Circulation). What the medics found in Iraq and Afghanistan was that the type of injury being suffered from explosions meant that there was no point in checking a patient’s airway if they had already bled to death. Bleeding needed to be controlled first. A group of military medics led by then-Colonel Tim Hodgetts published a paper called ABC to <C>ABC: redefining the military trauma paradigm which suggested that medics should treat Catastrophic Bleeding <C> before starting on the airway. This was a major turning point in casualty treatment and the issue of tourniquets to British forces led to a step change in survivability.

  2. The incorporation of new training techniques for every soldier in the British Armed Forces. Because the bleeding caused by IEDS and other explosions was so severe it became clear that the injured needed to be treated as soon as possible after injury, often before a medic could get to them. “Buddy Care” was born. It taught soldiers to treat themselves and their buddies by controlling catastrophic bleeding as much as possible at the point of injury. This stabilised the patient enough to allow medics to get to them. In November 2015 a British Army Colonel showed me a plasticised training card which is handed out to British soldiers. It bears significant similarities to the citizenAID Pocket Guide. And why wouldn’t it? It was designed and developed by many of the same people.

So, having seen that card, I now knew what I would do if I was ever caught up in a terrorist attack. I would follow the instructions on the card and make myself safe and then, when possible, I would treat myself or injured people around me using a Tourniquet to stop any catastrophic bleeding.

Well, great. But how would I make a Tourniquet? I assumed at the time that I would use a shoelace or a belt or something like that. I subsequently learnt that there were significant dangers to that approach. But there was still nothing available to teach me what to do or in fact teach anyone else.

In late-2016, I attended a lecture by the eminent trauma surgeon, Sir Keith Porter, at the Royal Society of Medicine in London. A few weeks later I saw a video of him on Facebook talking about a new initiative called citizenAID. FINALLY, here was an explanation for what I could do in an emergency. Not just in terms of treatment, but also in terms of how I should act to protect myself and others (RUN, HIDE, TELL). I downloaded the free App and I immediately saw the potential.

What I think is great about citizenAID is that it teaches you how to improvise. I’m unlikely to be walking around London with a CAT. For starters they cost £25-30 and on top of that they’re really bulky. citizenAID taught me how to use something I might be wearing or carrying to make bandages. How to use my finger or my hand to apply direct pressure to a wound to stop bleeding. How to use a pen and a tie to make a tourniquet. These days I could use the citizenAID Tourni-Key. It’s just a small plastic key that I can carry in my laptop case or even in my pocket. With it I could save a life.

So, now I’m a save-a-life ninja! But what happens if I don’t happen to be where the next terrorist incident takes place? The task for citizenAID now is to create a critical mass of people who understand what to do in an emergency. The problem is that in a terrorist incident it could be well over an HOUR before medical services can reach the injured. Lives still can be saved, but only if members of the public have the know-how to save them. citizenAID gives them, gives YOU, that knowledge.

The trustees and ambassadors of citizenAID regularly get out and about and talk about citizenAID. We have public information videos on our website, and more coming, that show what to do. We are developing a Schools product, led by our successful Moggy’s Coming book which tells the story of a cat loose in a school of mice and emphasises the RUN, HIDE, TELL message. We provide training courses for adults, both personally and through our training partner, Qualsafe. We have launched an affordable lifesaving equipment range, led by our Tourni-Key product. And of course, we have our Pocket Guide and free, award-winning App.

We are always looking for people to help spread the word. If you would like to get involved with citizenAID, please register for more information or use the Contact Us link on our website. If nothing else, please download our free App and familiarise yourself with it. You never know - with it you might just be able to save a life…


Hodgetts TJ, Mahoney PF, Russell MQ and Byers M (2006) ABC to <C>ABC: redefining the military trauma paradigm Emerg Med J. 2006 Oct; 23(10): 745–746.

Penn-Barwell JG, Roberts SA, Midwinter MJ and Bishop JR (2014) Improved survival in UK combat casualties from Iraq and Afghanistan: 2003-2012 J Trauma Acute Care Surg. 2015 May;78(5):1014-20.


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