Project Triage outfits all St. Croix police officers with trauma kits


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Weeks after receiving its first donation, a grass-roots initiative aimed at equipping all V.I. peace officers with trauma management kits has reached a milestone.

Enough kits have been donated through Project Triage to equip all V.I. Police Department officers in one district with new trauma management kits - although donations in the other district have been lagging behind, according to former St. Croix Police Chief Christopher Howell.

Howell credits a similar kit with saving his life when he and Officer Elsworth Jones were wounded in an ambush in the Canaan Ridge area on Aug. 18, 2012. The tourniquet in that kit staunched the hemorrhaging from a severe arm wound Howell suffered in the attack.

The small kits are designed to be carried by officers in the pocket of their bullet-proof vests and contain equipment the officer can use to stop the bleeding if he or she is wounded.

After learning at a conference that two out of three officers killed in the line of duty do not die from gunshot or stab wounds, but rather from the blood loss associated with those wounds, Howell started a push in the months before he was shot to provide all V.I. Police Department officers with the kits.

Recently, while still recovering from his injuries, he started Project Triage, a nonprofit with the goal of equipping all law enforcement and peace officers in the territory - and beyond - with up-to-date kits through private donations. Project Triage is sponsored by the St. Croix Foundation, which acts as a fiduciary.

Howell said Tuesday that Project Triage has received enough donations since the first one - from the St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association on Nov. 19 - to equip all V.I. Police Department officers on St. Croix with the new kits.

The new kits have a newer generation hemostatic agent to stop bleeding, one that is considered far superior to the first-generation one in the kits some V.I. Police Department officers currently have, according to Howell.

Although the decision had been made to provide the kits to the V.I. Police Department all at once so they would be easier to track, Project Triage plans to go ahead and give the department the kits for St. Croix officers sooner, rather than waiting for St. Thomas donations to catch up, Howell said.

"Donors in St. Thomas are not moving as quickly and I wouldn't want to wait," he said. "Best they get these in the field."

So far, the total number of kits that have been donated through Project Triage to the V.I. Police Department is 221, with all but 10 of those earmarked for St. Croix.

Major donors for St. Croix include the St. Croix Hotel & Tourism Association and Lifeline Pharmaceuticals, a company that is owned by Rick Nielsen, a native of St. Croix, Howell said.

Other businesses, organizations and individuals have donated kits as well, according to Howell. The kits are $50 each.

The 10 kits that were donated for St. Thomas came from the Bolongo Bay Beach Resort and the Virgin Islands Hotel and Tourism Association, he said.

Howell said he did not know why St. Thomas donations were lagging.

"I think there's a home team advantage, being that I'm from here," he said of St. Croix. "But certainly, the need is equal on both sides of the fence."

Also, while the donations received so far are enough to equip the Police Department on St. Croix, there is still a need to equip all law enforcement and peace officers on the island - and in the territory - with the kits, according to Howell.

He said he had recently been contacted by V.I. Superior Court marshals on St. Croix, who are trying to raise money to equip themselves with the kits. Other local agencies also have law enforcement and peace officers that Project Triage hopes to equip.

Donors can choose where they want their kits to go.

In fact, Project Triage is not limited to the territory. Anyone can donate a kit to any police organization through the nonprofit, according to Howell.

For instance, he said on Tuesday that an auditing firm in Atlanta had donated 100 kits to the Atlanta Police Department and a private donor had given two kits to a small police department in New York state.

For more information or to donate, go to projecttriage.org or email Howell at projecttriageorg@outlook.com.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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