MT. AIRY — Several months of work paid off Friday in Mt. Airy when trauma kits were delivered to each of Habersham County’s schools.
Those kits can be used in the event of a disaster or act of violence resulting in trauma at one of the county’s schools, with personnel at all those schools now trained in how to use them.
“Today is the culmination — a very good day — of a lot of hard work,” said Habersham Emergency Medical Services Director Chad Black. “This started probably a little over a year ago with members from our regions, the trauma commission and the trauma foundation for the State of Georgia, how we could sure our greatest assets and resources, our children, are protected.”
Stop the Bleed is an initiative funded by the Georgia Trauma Commission and was developed because of the increasing number of active shooter and mass casualty events across the nation.
Black said Gov. Nathan Deal, state legislators and the Trauma Commission provided funding for emergency personnel across the state to train every public school in Georgia in the Stop the Bleed curriculum and provide them with the response kits.
“Unfortunately, we have the incidents we see of the mass shootings, some of those at schools, so we wanted to make sure Georgia is prepared in the school in case that unthinkable happens,” Black said.
Partnering with Habersham EMS for the training in the county were personnel from Gainesville-based AirLife Georgia 2, a medical helicopter operated by Air Methods.
“Stop the Bleed is an initiative that was put out after the Sandy Hook tragedies that we had,” said AirLife Georgia 2 Clinical Base Lead Sarah Holcombe. “We’ve partnered with local EMS across North Georgia to provide hemorrhage control training and tourniquet use to reduce the morbidity and mortality that we see with penetrating trauma in mass incidents, or any type of situation — industrial or just accidental type things. We really want to get this out there. Simple techniques, such as applying pressure and using tourniquets, can actually save lives while waiting for EMS to come. These are the first-line people that we need mostly to help in this situation.”
One of the first school systems in North Georgia to begin the training for all its public schools and staff members was Habersham County.
“We now have all 14 public schools in Habersham trained — almost 700 staff and teachers trained in Stop the Bleed, and with the culmination today of delivering 168 trauma kits to be placed in our schools,” Black said. “It’s a much-needed training exercise, but at the same time it’s something we hope never have to use. But now, we are prepared in the case of the worst-case situation you could imagine.”
Habersham County School System Lead Nurse Crystal Holcomb, LPN, discussed what training such a large group entailed.
“It is a lot of logistics,” Holcomb said. “Our school nurses, most of us were trained at the Georgia Association of School Nurses Conference in Savannah this summer, and came back and partnered with our EMS. Chad Black and Michael Alexander partnered with us to help us teach these classes. We had to have a lot of cooperation from our principals and our school staff to arrange these trainings.”
Each training session lasted 45 minutes to an hour and involved hands-on training with kits designed to orient responders with using the contents of the trauma kit.
Like Black, Holcomb said Stop the Bleed is training she hopes the county never needs, but said she is pleased that personnel are prepared should tragedy strike.
“It’s important training,” Holcomb said. “It definitely prepares them, and we gave them resources that they could get their own kit if they wanted to order their own kit to keep it in their car, their camper, their home, hunting. There are all kinds of places they could use that out in the general public as well — shopping, churches.”
Habersham County School System Nurse Supervisor Nancy Rithmire, R.N., said the Georgia Association of School Nurses Conference is an important opportunity for ongoing annual training for the county’s school health services personnel and was where many school nurses first heard about the training.
“We continue to increase our nursing skills, professional development,” Rithmire said. “It’s geared toward school nursing, and we’ve been very blessed at Habersham County School System to be able to attend that, and this was just one of the outcroppings of being able to increase our knowledge and skills by learning about this program, and being able to share it with all the staff in our Habersham County Schools, and we’re just very thankful that we’ve been able to partner with Georgia Association of School Nurses and our EMS group to bring this to our school system.”
Holcomb said she and Rithmire are thankful for the system support staff, for the board of education and Superintendent Matthew Cooper for allowing the school nursing staff to work with staff members at each school to make the schools safer for students, staff and visitors.
In addition to having personnel trained to respond to incidents in the schools, completion of the Stop the Bleed curriculum places nearly 700 more trained responders in the Habersham County community.
Anyone who has received the Stop the Bleed training or who completes it and wants to purchase a trauma kit for their vehicle or place or business can do so.
“You can still go on North American Rescue and buy the kits at what we got them for with the state bid, which is right at $40 per kit, I believe through October 2019,” Black said. “People are buying these for their businesses, they’re buying them to keep in their cars.”
The bleeding control kits are Item No. 85-1563, and are $39.98, Black said.
While the initial initiative followed the mass shootings in recent years, the kits can be used in other trauma applications.
“You have children get injured on the playground,” Black said. “You have them get injured, where they can be bleeding from anything other than just what this was specifically designed for, so these are used for much more than that and can be used out in the community.”
But completion of the training by the staff at each of the public schools in the county is just the beginning.
“Actually, our next phase for Habersham is we have raised about $3,500 with the generosity of businesses here where we’re going to train almost 100 law enforcement officers and equip them in Habersham County with the tourniquets and chest seals on their person,” Black said. “We know what law enforcement is under right now, so we want to make sure they’re protected in case something happens to them, or they can not only save themselves but save a partner or another law enforcement agent.”
Donations are being accepted to assist with equipping Habersham County’s law enforcement personnel. Those interested in helping can contact Chad Black at Habersham EMS, (706) 754-6262, or Sheriff Joey Terrell at (706) 754-6666. Terrell is coordinating the training for all law enforcement personnel in the county.
“We could definitely use the help on the financial end to make sure our law enforcement officers are safe and protected in Habersham,” Black said.