WINFIELD, W.Va. -- For Randy Hodges, the threats that face public schools in Putnam County and across the country -- from school shootings to natural disasters -- warrant targeted preparation.
Hodges, director of Charleston Area Medical Center - Teays Valley Hospital, told those present at the county's school board meeting Monday the hospital has invested $72,000 in 680 emergency medical kits for the vocational school, 14 elementary schools, four high schools and four middle schools in the county.
"We're going to put one of these bags in every classroom, every cafeteria and in every gym of every school in Putnam County," Hodges said.
The kits hold more than bandages, and have been outfitted to deal with emergencies where medical help might be necessary before first responders can arrive, Hodges said. The idea came from Conner Street Elementary School in Hurricane, when administrators approached the hospital for emergency medical supplies.
"At the hospital, it really got us thinking -- we can give them bandages, but what should we really give them that could help them in a real, catastrophic situation? As we continued to talk, we decided we wanted to try to do it county-wide," Hodges said.
Each bag contains a blood pressure cuff, trauma shears, a shock blanket, alcohol wipes, forceps, a splint, gauze and other items not found in standard first-aid kits. According to Hodges, the hospital first considered giving four or five bags to each school, but decided that if a situation were to occur where every classroom had to shelter in place, each might need a bag.
"From our research, we don't believe there is any other school system currently that has placed disaster medical kits in every classroom in every school within a district," Hodges said. "We could be wrong, but we have not been able to find another place where it has been done."
The hospital partnered with the school system, the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and with the Office of Emergency Management to determine the plan for implementing the kits, and according to Superintendent Chuck Hatfield, the county will work to train each of its teachers and staff members to use the items found in the bags.
"This is a very significant undertaking they've brought to the table; so much has changed in our school systems in the last few years in terms of safety. Our campuses are fenced in and we have card readers on every door and cameras and monitors," Hatfield said. "From that perspective, we feel like we're providing a safe environment, but we also understand and know that if someone wants in enough and their intent is to truly harm someone, there's always a chance they could still get in."