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Trauma Kits To Be Distributed To Pittsfield Public Schools

A man in a uniform shirt and tie holds his hands up to his side in front of a fire truck and a table with an unzipped red bag full of medical supplies
Josh Landes
Pittsfield Fire Chief Tom Sammons

The Pittsfield, Massachusetts public schools will be outfitted with trauma kits purchased with state grant money by the city’s fire department.

The nearly $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency will provide the city with 15 kits, one for each public school plus Berkshire Community College. They’re produced by the California-based company EmergencyKits.com, and contain five smaller sub kits inside – each outfitted for emergency trauma response to a mass casualty event.

“That’s a compressed crinkle gauze, so this would expand as gauze that they would apply to a wound," said Pittsfield Fire Chief Tom Sammons. He showed reporters the kits Monday morning.

“This is Quik Clot, so this would be pushed into a wound and it clots and stops the bleeding," explained Sammons. "That’s an emergency high strength pressure bandage that would go around a wound, and then there’s a tourniquet for an extremity, arm or a leg.”

It also includes materials for treating chest wounds.

“So if a lung gets punctured, this actually has a portion of it that’s open that acts as a one-way valve so that air can go out but you can’t suck in through the chest,” said the chief.

The kits also contain trauma dressings, a fabric stretcher, a high visibility vest, alcohol pads, saline solution for cleaning wounds, hydrogen peroxide as a local antiseptic, ace bandages, and cold packs.

“There are no band aids, crazy enough,” laughed Sammons.

He said the grant was secured by Deputy Chief Dan Garner and Office Manager Anne Ferin.

“It was really just us preplanning," he told WAMC. "We do a lot of preplanning. They saw a need and wrote a grant and it was fulfilled and it was a great step forward.”

While the kits are designed specifically for use in a mass causality event like a school shooting, city officials say their use extends to other incidents like car accidents.

“First responders for the last several years – law enforcement in particular – has been pushing for those trauma kits closer to the front line," said Pittsfield Police Chief Michael Wynn. “Originally the idea was that if an officer suffered traumatic injury they could render themselves self-care until their partners or backup got there. But what we’ve seen nationally – and it started, unfortunately, with the Boston Marathon Bombing – Boston PD had just deployed them. And the officers who were in close proximity to the finish line had them on their person, and although the officers weren’t injured, they were able to employ their kits and deploy them on civilian casualties. And the trauma surgeons have stated repeatedly that had that material and that equipment not have been available at the finish line, the fatality count may have been much higher.”

The move to bolster the public schools’ ability to respond to mass casualty events with the kits is part of a larger effort.

“Pittsfield schools have been doing drills at least for the last five or six years," said Eric Lamoureaux of the Pittsfield Public Schools. “We have our fire drills and our weather drills, and [we’re] starting to do some lockdown drills. Over the last few years, we’ve really enhanced that to be doing more active lockdown drills, and that’s what we’re really bringing into the schools this year and moving forward.”

He says the drills are intended to prepare students and staff for what to do in the case of a school shooting.

“Sadly, that’s the time that we’re in in this country," Lamoureaux told WAMC. "That’s the most immediate threat to our buildings, so to get them more prepared of what to do if there was an assailant either outside the building or inside the building.”

The schools are also preparing for the emotional impact of those kinds of drills and what they suggest to students.

“We have somebody who’s in charge of socio-emotional learning – also in charge of the psychs and the SACs for the district – Ann Marie Carpenter, and we’ve been in conversation frequently and are going to try to attend some trainings together about how trauma can effect students from K-12," said Lamoureaux. "Especially when we just do drills and talk about what may or may not happen in type of these situations and how we can be prepared for that and how we can make sure that there’s support staff in the buildings that are able to support students not only if there was a real incident but also just while we do drills.”

He expects the kits will be distributed to each school next week, with staff ready to use them by March.

“I’ll meet with the nurse leader along with somebody from the fire department, make sure we go through the kits, so everyone knows what’s in them,” Lamoureaux told WAMC.

The nurse leader will then meet with each building’s nursing staff to carry out the training on-site with each school’s medical response team. Each school is individually responsible for replenishing the kits’ contents from their own supplies and budgets.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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