School Resource Officer Zack Marley, who recently saved a choking student, isn’t the only person at West Hall High School with the qualifications to swoop in and protect lives.
Jennifer Bartlett, registered nurse at West Hall High, said as of last year, 73% of the school’s teachers were CPR and automated external defibrillator certified through the American Heart Association.
Stan Lewis, Hall’s director of communications and athletics, said approximately 1,300 Hall County team members have CPR and AED certification. The district administers the training through Heartsaver, which is a two-hour course involving adult and child CPR, AED training and abdominal thrust training for choking victims.
Lewis said every school in Hall County has a safety coordinator who oversees an emergency crisis plan. They work closely with school officials, school resource officers and local law enforcement.
“The Hall County Sheriff’s Department reviews all of our schools’ emergency crisis plans and provides input,” Lewis said. “All of these plans meet recommended GEMA (Georgia Emergency Management Agency) standards and best practices.”
Gainesville City Schools also works to fill its facilities with CPR-certified staff members.
Paula Sawyer, Gainesville’s health services coordinator, said each of the eight schools in the system has a CPR-certified school nurse.
At the start of the school year, she asks CPR-certified teachers and other staff members if they would be willing to join the system’s emergency response team.
“Our goal is to have a trained member of the team within various areas of the school,” Sawyer said. “If we find that more members are needed, then additional CPR training will be provided.”
Ley Hathcock, principal at West Hall High, said Hall offers incentives for Heartsaver training. This includes a $50 yearly stipend to each CPR-certified staff member.
“My goal would be to have 100% of the staff here trained, we’re working toward that,” Hathcock said. “All teachers and all staff in our building are provided with some level of safety training.”
Bartlett said that the quick response time on Aug. 8 to a 15-year-old female student who was choking on a grape, proves that the emergency training works.
Twice a year West Hall High holds CPR and AED training for teachers.
Both Hall and Gainesville follow the Stop the Bleed initiative, which offers guidance on how to use tourniquets and help in bleeding emergencies.
By the time senior year rolls around for students, Bartlett said they will have undergone hands-only CPR training. This only involves chest compression, no mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
West Hall High has three registered nurses in the building, three AEDs placed in strategic locations and Stop the Bleed kits dispersed around the school.
“West Hall is the place to have an emergency, if there must be one,” Bartlett said. “I feel like we are very prepared to take great care of the students entrusted to us daily.”
Hall maintains 84 AEDs throughout its 37 campuses, including athletic fields and facilities. All special education bus drivers are Heartsaver-certified.
Hathcock said luckily, instances like the choking emergency on Aug. 8, are a rarity.
However, he is thankful for Marley’s fast reaction and dedication to the school’s students.
“All of the SROs in the county are exceptional and Zack is the epitome of building relationships with kids and being aware of the kids as individuals,” Hathcock said. “He’s not just a figure that stands in the hall and watches, he knows the kids.”