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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Morgan County officers have new tool to deal with the unexpected: Trauma packs

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – When law enforcement officers hit the roadways for patrol, the only certainty they face is the uncertainty of what they might encounter. And quite often those situations are swift and violent: gunshot wounds, stabbings or crash injuries.

In Morgan County, officers often are first on the scene before emergency medical responders. Now, they have trauma packs to render life-saving first aid to civilians, fellow officers – and themselves, if necessary – thanks to Franciscan St. Francis Health.

“The trauma packs are a front-line necessity for law enforcement in our county,” said Nathan Lowder, RN, manager of the Emergency Department for Franciscan St. Francis-Mooresville.

The idea behind the packs was first suggested last year by Brian Anderson, a member of the Mooresville Police Department. Anderson, who also works part-time as a security officer at the Mooresville hospital, approached Franciscan St. Francis Health officials about funding the project, which the hospital did at a cost of $8,000.

As discussions progressed, it was determined the packs should be provided to all officers with the Mooresville and Martinsville police departments, Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, tactical units, Indiana State Police and the town marshals of Monrovia, Brooklyn, Morgantown and Paragon.

The cost of each kit is about $85 and includes special wound-packing gauzes; a tourniquet; pressure bandages to treat severe wounds; a large bandage to cover abdominal wounds; dressings to seal holes in the chest cavity; an open airway device; trauma shears; and disposable gloves. All of the items fit snugly into an easily carried drop-leg pack.

Although long-experienced in emergency medicine, Lowder was required to undergo intensive training and certification from the Department of Homeland Security before he could train others to use the packs.

Lowder has trained more than 100 officers since the beginning of the year. Plans also are under way to train other state troopers and conservation officers who are assigned to Morgan County.

“The training is thorough and it gives officers the confidence they need to respond in high-stress situations,” said Lowder, who also is a reserve sheriff’s deputy.

In his 14 years with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Department, Captain Brent Worth knows a thing or two about high-stress scenarios: Active shooter and hostage incidents; investigating homicides, armed robberies, domestic violence and vehicle accidents; and dealing with escalating drug-related activity and crimes.

“We’re largely rural in this county and when responding to a call we just never know what will be encounter,” said Worth, who has undergone the training and also is a certified emergency medical technician. “There have been past incidents when the trauma kits may have saved the lives of injured officers and civilians.”

To ensure standardized use and easy access, the packs are attached to the posts of passenger headrests in all patrol vehicles. That way, all Morgan County officers know where they can find additional supplies if needed.

The trend of providing trauma kits to police officers has grown nationally in recent years, largely spawned by growing active shooter occurrences and incidents such as the Boston Marathon bombings. Last year, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department issued the packs to all of its officers.

“When time matters and lives may be at stake, the packs and training we receive are vital tools to make a difference,” Worth said. “We are grateful for St. Francis’ support.”