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Putnam schools to get 'tactical first aid kits'

By Kara Moore

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Every classroom, gymnasium and school cafeteria in Putnam County will soon have what officials call a "tactical first aid kit."

The kits contain more than just the usual bandages and ointments. They're designed with disasters and catastrophes in mind -- including active shooter situations.

"It's far too often that we're reminded of the need for that plan as we see tragic events happening in our school systems throughout the nation," CAMC Teays Valley Hospital President Randy Hodges told school board members at a regular meeting Monday night.

"This actually started because of a letter we received from Connor Street Elementary School," Hodges said. "They wanted to know if we would either financially fund or give them medical supplies that would help them out in a medical emergency."

That letter arrived last summer and prompted hospital officials to begin thinking about what supplies would be useful in a catastrophic situation.

"As we continued to talk we decided, 'Why don't we try to do this countywide?' That's when I called Mr. Hatfield to see if there was any interest."

Superintendent Chuck Hatfield was interested and put together a working group in the fall that included representatives from the sheriff's office and the county office of emergency services as well as hospital staff and school nurses.

Hodges said that when the discussions began they thought they might need to put two or three bags in each school.

"It became apparent that the plan, especially for an active shooter situation, is going to require sheltering in place in each classroom," Hodges said. "We made the decision to put those bags everywhere they could possibly be needed in that type of situation."

CAMC will buy 680 kits for the county at a cost of $72,000, Hodges announced Monday night.

The kits include items ranging from blood pressure cuffs and stethoscopes to warming blankets and cold packs to forceps and wound dressings.

"From our research, we don't believe that there's any other school system currently that has placed disaster emergency medical kits in every classroom in every school in their district," Hodges said.

The hospital was able to work with one of its medical supply vendors to pre-assemble the kits rather than buy the supplies and assemble them by hand. He brought one to show board members.

The hospital will also work with school officials to develop a maintenance plan for the kits as some of the supplies will have to be replaced every few years.

"It truly is our hope and prayer that those bags never have to be used," Hodges said.

Before the bags can be placed in classrooms, school personnel will have to undergo some training to use the supplies. Hatfield said that process has been delayed because of the recent school closures for weather and water, but it would begin soon.

Hatfield said that students already practice sheltering in their classrooms for disaster situations, including active shooters.

"So much has changed in our school system over the last few years in terms of safety," Hatfield said. "Our campuses are fenced in, we have card readers on all the doors and cameras and monitors and vestibules and those kinds of things. From that perspective we feel like we are providing a very safe environment."

He said the kits would also be valuable in other kinds of disasters, like severe weather or damage to a school building.

"This is a very significant undertaking that they've brought to the table," Hatfield said of CAMC.

In other news, Hatfield reported that in spite of many school cancellations in January, Putnam County is on track to get in 175 instructional days after some calendar modifications.

"It's still a moving target," Hatfield said.

He also told that board that the county has about six days in "accrued time."

That means that every minute each school day goes beyond the required instructional time adds up to count as extra instructional days in a pinch.

Hatfield said that including accrued time, the county could still meet the state's 180-day requirement.

The school baord meets at 7 p.m. the first and third Monday of each month at the central office in Winfield. All meetings are open to the public.


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