Schools are required by law to conduct various types of drills every year. Staff and students participate in fire drills, tornado drills, sometimes earthquake drills and even lockdown or active shooter drills.
But not every school has practiced how to respond to a medical emergency, and too few educators and adults community-wide know how to administer first aid, CPR or use an automated external defibrillator, authorities said.
Tammie Crowder, a registered nurse with Parkridge Health System, has been working for nearly a decade to change that.
In 2010, Crowder offered to train teachers and staff at Loftis Middle School on the basics of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes.
Since then, almost 35 schools in Hamilton County have participated in "Code Blue" trainings offered for free by Parkridge Health System.
This week, another 500 to 600 educators will come together — some for a refresher, some for the first time — to learn how they could help save a life.
> Parkridge Health System will hold two free community CPR classes this year. The public is invited to register and attend one of the sessions to learn how to administer CPR, recognize signs of strokes or heart attacks, and more.
> The sessions will take place at 6:00 p.m. on April 18 and September 19 at the Parkridge Medical Center’s Diagnostic Center at 2205 McCallie Ave. For more information or to register for a class, call 423-622-6848.
"Teachers and nurses are the two closest professions on the planet," Crowder said. "They're both all about care-giving. I found that Hamilton County has a plan for fire, tornado, shooter drills, but not for medical emergencies. Having a plan and practicing that plan is everything."
On Thursday, dozens of teachers and staff members from Snow Hill Elementary came together for Crowder's often-amusing and captivating class.
The Code Blue program works with schools to establish and implement a procedure for emergency medical situations, train staff and educate parents and students.
"What she's teaching you guys today is literally how to change a life, how to change an outcome," Parkridge CEO Tom Ozburn told the participants.
"The whole purpose of this is to take the knowledge we have as clinicians and caregivers and give it to teachers, so they'll have it in the event an emergency happens in their classroom or on their playground," Ozburn added.
Most schools have at least one full-time nurse, but at Snow Hill, Principal Phil Iannarone said that nurse is responsible for a building filled with more than 600 students and adults.
One person cannot be everywhere at the same time, and often educators find themselves in situations in which they are the only adults in the room, he said.
"A life is important," Iannarone said. "If there is someone in need or we are in an emergency situations, we want to be prepared."
Thursday's training included hands-on activities to show participants what it really feels like to give chest compressions or breathe into the mouth of a person in need and how to use an AED. They rotated through multiple stations, practicing on models of adults, children and a baby.
Every school in Hamilton County has at least one automated external defibrillator now, after state law required certain schools to install them.
Melissa Braswell has been a teacher at Snow Hill Elementary for a decade and teaches in a preschool exceptional education classroom. Many of her students have medical needs. She is thankful for the annual training as well as the hands-on experience.
"Even if you don't take away everything, you take away some of it and you want to know what you can that will help save a life," she said.
Beverly Stone echoes Braswell's thoughts. She has helped Crowder, who provides these trainings for free, for several years. Stone is a nurse at Middle Valley Elementary School and is already trained on how to respond to emergencies, but she finds it comforting that other adults in her building also are trained.
"Having someone that is assisting, someone that is also trained is more cushion," Stone said. "It takes more than one person to do this, to respond to a Code Blue situation, and every second counts. It gives you a peace of mind."
Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.