ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Donated medical supplies that were battlefield tested and free of charge in 2014 were withheld from the people who needed them most for more than two years.
The trauma kits are filled with emergency medical supplies, like tourniquets, that are designed for quick response to something like an active shooter. They were given to every school in Anderson County by a local businessman. But before they got to the schools, they had to get through Anderson County Emergency Management.
In the Upstate, much of the school safety strategy for active shooters is focused on stopping the shooter as quickly as possible. Many districts added additional resource officers while a bill in the state legislature would allow some school staff to arm themselves in self-defense.
But new evidence in Anderson County shows emergency managers failed to prepare schools to save student lives after the shooting stops.
In one case, the tools schools needed were handed over, free of charge, years earlier.
“The products aren’t difficult to use the training is easy. It’s just making the time and effort,” said Ross Johnson of Tactical Medical Solutions.
Johnson is a former combat medic. He treated soldiers on the battlefield in Afghanistan and his Anderson County company, Tactical Medical Solutions, makes the kind of medical supplies he wished he had then. His “trauma kits” are now used by some of that nation’s largest police forces and biggest corporations. And in early 2014 Johnson, who has kids of his own in Anderson District 4, offered to donate the kits to every single school in the county.
“To be able to fill that gap between when an injury actually occurs and first responders or EMS arriving on scene,” Johnson said.
Johnson made that offer in a presentation for all the Anderson County superintendents at the Anderson County Emergency Services. It’s the same agency responsible for training schools in active shooter response.
The color-coded kits are designed for ordinary people and include lifesaving equipment like a tourniquet to stop the bleeding until help arrives.
Still, more than two years after the tourniquets were donated, the still hadn’t arrived at Anderson County’s schools when a gunman opened fire at Townville Elementary.
6 year old Jacob Hall was shot in the leg and the wound to his femoral artery led to what doctors called “catastrophic blood loss”. He would die days later.
The fire chief who was first on scene, 6 and a half minutes after the shooting, would apply a tourniquet to Jacobs leg. He later said there was no way to know if having quicker access to one might have saved the boy’s life.
“Only God knows the answer to that,” said Billy McAdams.
After Jacob died, the head nurse in Anderson District 4 sent an email to nurses in each school directing them to track the trauma kits down. She notes the nurse at Townville used “some fabric to help tie off Jacob’s leg” but the one thing the nurse really “could have used was the tourniquet.”
“All i can think is, what if? What if she had that and Jacob could still be here? That’s the only thing that’s going in my mind right now,” said Jacob’s mother, Renae Hall.
So where did those donated tourniquets go?
After Ross Johnson’s presentation at Anderson County Emergency Services, back in 2014, some schools were already asking the same question.
In one email, three years ago, the Director of Student Management in Anderson District 5 asked where the kits were.
“The schools have asked about them,” wrote Dr. Cory Williams.
An employee at Emergency Management replies to assure Williams they are still getting “one per school”.
Neither did anyone else.
A spokesperson for Anderson 5 now says the trauma kits were never delivered because, instead of allowing Tactical Medical Solutions to train school nurses, Anderson County employee Taylor Jones wanted to do the job himself.
But, he says, Jones never followed through.
After the Townville Elementary shooting, all the schools in Anderson District 4 and 5 got their trauma kits. Many other Upstate schools already have them, including Greenville County schools. They are not required in any school.