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Experts train educators to save lives

Mar. 04, 2013 @ 11:35 PM

BARBOURSVILLE -- Every human being is a first responder, said Dr. Stephen L. Wilson, associate professor of surgery at Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine at Marshall University.

"If your child falls off a swing set or you get a fish hook imbedded in a finger, you're going to respond first, not call EMS," he said.

And so -- especially in this time of increasing mass violence -- it pays to train as many people as possible the simplest but most effective ways to save a life. It doesn't take a medical degree to dramatically increase a person's chance to live, he said.

That's why Wilson and a team of experts went to Barboursville Middle School on Monday -- to train teachers, office staff, cooks, custodians and all school employees some first responder techniques that can be put to use before law enforcement and EMS can respond to a violent scene.

Wilson, who is a trauma surgeon at Cabell Huntington Hospital, was joined by the Barboursville Police, Cabell EMTs, and Dr. Gary Patton, who has long been associated with counseling and pastoral care services at St. Mary's Medical Center. The group taught not only medical techniques, but also gave advice from a law enforcement standpoint and addressed psychological needs.

Wilson and his team have authored a protocol, "Basic Life Saver Training for Educators," which centers on field triage in a mass casualty event like a school shooting.

It's a follow-up to a training that has been conducted over the past couple years for municipal, county and state law enforcement officers throughout Cabell County, Wilson said. It's already saved lives, he said, and he hopes the protocol will be taught throughout the entire county and state of West Virginia, and even become a national model as an evidence-based first-responder course.

The educators' program was being written when the mass shooting occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut three months ago.

"In the past 15 years, there have been more than 320 gunshot deaths in schools," Wilson said. "We started this about three years ago at Marshall, with three educational models for first responder preparedness for law enforcement, medics and SWAT teams."

Law enforcement benefit from knowing the techniques, which not only help others but to save their own lives, he said.

"With this ongoing wave of classroom violence, we wrote this to teach school teachers to be first responders as well," he said. "This is designed for that interim of time when they have (no one else on the scene). It's designed to give them the mindset and basic recognition of wounds and the (know-how) to communicate with law enforcement officers. ... This is minimal skill sets to avoid preventable deaths."

Sixty percent of preventable deaths from gunshot wounds occur from bleeding extremities, and a major component of the training is teaching the school personnel to control bleeding, he said.

In some areas of the body, controlling bleeding within a couple minutes is the difference between life and death, he said.

Barboursville Detective Kerry Arthur, who works as a liaison between the school and the police department, said he provided information such as the difference between an active shooter, who's basically an active "serial killer," and a barricade shooter situation, which often takes place over a longer period of time with usually no ongoing injuries or loss of life.

"We gave them some suggestions that would help in both situations and would also help our response," Arthur said.

Wilson said teachers love their students. "If something happens, they're going to do everything they can to protect them," he said.

Now, they can do more, and the teachers said they appreciated the additional knowledge.

It's "unfortunate but necessary," said eighth-grade teacher Anna Archer.

"It's a comfort to have extra information and be able to formulate a plan," she said.

"This has been beneficial," said sixth-grade teacher Robin Eplin. "There are some things that I thought were common sense, but I've gotten more."

Fellow sixth-grade teacher Kyle Berry said that as a coach, he's seen "some nasty injuries."

"I've realized that there's nothing you can do to mentally prepare for what you see, but it's positive to know what to do if it occurs," he said.

Archer added that teachers are probably more preconditioned for such an event than many people realize.

"It's not absent from our minds," she said. "It's unsettling to think about, but it's something we talk about every year."

Technology teacher Dan Miles said the training was wonderful. He just wishes there was more done, such as forming a "crisis team" at each school.

Principal Brent Jarrell said he was grateful the experts launched the program at Barboursville Middle, and that the school has had an ongoing, positive relationship with Barboursville Police.

"Chief Coffee has had an officer walking through the building on a regular basis," Jarrell said.

From this point, Wilson said he hopes that the program can grow. School employees who receive the training can provide the training to others.

There is an expense involved, and he said some grants or other funds will be needed to provide the manuals and the supplies needed.

"Marshall has committed a lot of man hours and resources for preparedness -- a lot," Wilson said, adding that much credit should go to Dr. David Denning, chairman of the Department of Surgery, and Dr. Joseph Shapiro, dean of the School of Medicine.

Though the nation and the state have open discussions about how to prevent mass shootings from occurring, it's best to still be prepared for the aftermath, Wilson said.

"This is something we've created because these events have happened and are going to continue to happen," he said. "Multiply this over the county, the state and all 50 states and you have millions of people prepared (to save lives). ... It would give me a calming effect, as a parent, to know that we're doing every single thing we can."



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