NORTH BRUNSWICK – Acting Superintendent of Schools Janet Ciarrocca said that years ago, a middle school student put their hand through a window. The student nicked an artery and bled throughout the entire school.
The student made it to the hospital and recovered, but Ciarrocca said having some type of bleeding control kit would have been helpful during the events.
Now, students in the North Brunswick School District will have a better chance of quicker action, as the charitable organization Brothers Before Others has donated seven trauma kits with supplies to control bleeding in the event of an emergency.
Brothers Before Others
Brothers Before Others was founded in 2014 by retired New York Police Department (NYPD) Police Officer Michael Burke. The core mission then, and still is, the National Flower Fund through which members send a floral arrangement to the services of every line of duty death in the United States.
“We take for granted that every department has huge turnouts for funerals because we see larger departments like the NYPD when, in reality, that is not the norm,” said Joshua Oliveri, second vice president of the Brothers Before Others charity and an active Port Authority police officer.
“There have been services where we have found out our arrangements have been one of only a few. While this gesture seems simple, it is a tangible sign to the family left behind that no matter where they are, people they never met are thinking about them and that they are never alone.
“To date, we are the only organization of any kind doing this other than the New York Yankees who, since 2016, two years after us, have been known to send arrangements to civil servant funerals. However, they do not do every one,” he said.
Kits for Kids by Cops
The organization’s most recent initiative is the Kits for Kids by Cops program, which provides Emergency Trauma Station Throw Kits to school districts.
“While Brothers Before Others has had this idea in the works for a few months now, inspired by the observations of one of our members in another school district out of state, our reasoning and rationale for the donation has been highlighted by the recent uptick in school shootings/violence.
“While it is our sincerest hope these kits accumulate dust and are never needed, we have to also recognize the world we live in and prepare for the worst. In the event of a mass casualty type incident, the availability of these kits and included items to the staff and responding police, fire and EMS (personnel) will undoubtedly save lives,” Oliveri said.
Brothers Before Others chose the North Brunswick School District for its inaugural presentation because Oliveri’s wife Stacie has been teaching at Judd Elementary School for 25 years and was the school’s Teacher of the Year in 2021.
There are also several members of the North Brunswick Police Department who are members of Brothers Before Others.
In attendance for the donation during the Feb. 23 North Brunswick Board of Education meeting were Burke, Oliveri, retired NYPD/Tac Med Solutions representative George Sichler and North Brunswick Lt. Mike Sauvigne.
“While Tac Med has been selling these kits and related items for some time and any active/retired first responder can testify to the effectiveness of the products included as, in some cases, similar products have been used first person in lifesaving measures.
“The seven kits that were presented to the Board of Education were the first seven to be distributed by our charity. Retired North Brunswick Police Capt. Mike Misurell, who still serves the district, was involved in the receiving of the donation and, likewise, knows firsthand how vital the products are in the event of a mass injury incident,” Oliveri said.
The kits are purchased by the charity from Tac Med Solutions. According to their website, each Emergency Trauma Station (ETS) Throw Kit contains illustrated instructions that take the user through step-by-step procedures to ensure proper care and device application based on what they observe for injuries.
The throw kits themselves are contained in a resealable bag.
Each throw kit contains a rescue orange SOF Tourniquet
, making its application readily apparent to additional first responders and medical professionals. Also included are the OLAES Modular Bandage
, petrolatum gauze
, or an optional set of chest seals, tape board
, gloves, emergency blanket
, and a brightly colored 1-foot by 1-foot casualty marking card to alert rescuers there is a victim behind closed doors.
Seven throw kits are contained in a bright red kit bag that is clearly labeled “TRAUMA.”
Also found in the trauma bag are two ultra-light poleless litter systems to aid first responders and rescuers with the evacuation of critically wounded individuals.
The entire trauma system is stored in a wall-mounted steel cabinet, similar to an automated external defibrillator (AED) cabinet, that is clearly marked “TRAUMA KIT.”
The case is alarmed and has the capability to be hardwired into a building’s existing alarm system so others may also be alerted.
The ETS is ideally suited kit for high traffic areas, so it is readily available for public access.
“We chose the metal boxes specifically because, just as an AED box, they are alarmed and able to be locked; though, also like AED boxes, they rarely are. No one needs to be searching for a key in an emergent situation. That said, because these boxes will be in relatively common areas, the alarm feature was important to us.
“All school employees will have access to the items. It is our understanding the North Brunswick schools have MERT teams (Medical Emergency Response Team) which are comprised of their civilian staff members who are designated to respond in the event of a medical emergency in any of their respective schools.
“While I can’t speak for the district itself, I am sure there will be a preference order as to who uses items included in the kits. However, even if it is solely to grab the bag and get it to where it needs to be, we feel it is important that any staff member be able to access the box,” Oliveri said.
The school resource officers (SRO) in North Brunswick have already been trained on many of the items or similar ones as part of their certification, Oliveri said.
“As part of the package, Tac Med provides a free online certification course that takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete and will familiarize the individual on each item and their application. The online course is available to all the school staff, not just the SROs. So, the civilian staff has access to the same online course,” Oliveri said.
Mike Misurell, who is the North Brunswick School District’s director of security, said that prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office instituted a bleeding control course for all officers throughout the county.
“It was one of the best hands-on training sessions I have ever gone to,” said Misurell, who explained attendees learned how to use a tourniquet, quick-clotting agents and a sucking chest wound seal (for example, if there is a gunshot wound to the chest, you shut down air going into the wound with the seal so the person does not go into cardiac arrest).
Misurell said Robert Merkler, the chief of staff for the prosecutor’s office, received a grant to allow school personnel to receive similar training. Misurell said North Brunswick sent its entire security staff, nursing team and MERT members for the training.
Everyone received a kit that included a tourniquet, clotting agents, chest seal and gauze.
The nurses’ offices are also stocked with equipment and supplies, Misurell said.
With the addition of trauma kits in each of the district’s seven schools, Misurell said anyone can grab one of the kits and begin to administer bleeding control measures in the event of an emergency.
“The supplies are basic first aid supplies, but it is a critical three to five minutes when someone has a critical bleed or a gunshot wound,” Misurell said. “The school district can’t thank Brothers Before Others enough because they have given us the best supplies we hope we will never need. … This more readily available location is a tremendous bonus to the school district.
Misurell, a former North Brunswick police captain, said that over the course of his career, he witnessed officers on the scene of a motor vehicle accident create makeshift tourniquets.
He said everyone should keep a bag or two of quick-clotting agents in their car “because it can save your life.”
“I would recommend every person take some type of bleeding control course because it’s applicable to your own everyday life,” Misurell said.
During the meeting, school board member Barry Duran Harris commented, “Obviously this is very useful. We appreciate the time and effort you put in.”
North Brunswick’s Connection
North Brunswick Police Lt. Michael Sauvigne has been a member of Brothers Before Others since 2014. He was invited to join after the organization helped out one of the police department’s officers following the sudden death of his wife.
“I was appealed to join because it was a chance for police officers from all over the country to come together, under one group, to help other officers in their time of greatest need. This group of officers uses their own time and money for all of its initiatives,” he said.
There are currently about five other officers from North Brunswick who are members, but membership is by invitation only.
“It is not that the North Brunswick Police Department supports Brothers Before Others or the other way around. We just collectively enjoy doing things for the community and for officers in this area. One of the vice presidents of Brothers Before Others lives near North Brunswick and his wife is a teacher in North Brunswick, that is why a lot of events are held locally,” Sauvigne said.
The Detective Bureau commander helped facilitate the introduction of Brothers Before Others to Misurell.
Additionally, all officers conduct annual school familiarization during the summer, so these trauma kits will be part of the training, he said.
“All officers in Middlesex County have been through bleeding control/trauma care training. Having these kits on site will provide easy access for first responders should there ever be need for them. We hope there is never a situation where these kits will be used, however, in the event they are needed time is of the essence. Having these kits pre-positioned will save valuable time,” he said.
Middlesex County Training
The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office has reopened in-person training for Bleeding Control for the Injured (BCON), a four-hour course that teaches participants basic lifesaving medical interventions, including bleeding control via a variety of techniques and equipment, such as general techniques, use of a tourniquet, use of a gauze packs or application of topical hemostatic agents, and opening an airway, said Robert Merkler, the chief of staff for the prosecutor’s office.
“Bleeding control may become part of the high school curriculum” such as CPR is, Sichler said during the North Brunswick school board meeting. “It’s a needed space. We are talking about saving people’s lives.”
The BCON training was instituted in 2016. The course has been open to first responders – police, fire, EMS, emergency management, Community Emergency Response Teams; schools – public, private, parochial, colleges and universities; school personnel – teachers, nurses, security, athletic trainers; health departments; hospital staff; and the private sector.
The course runs several times a year, although it was on hiatus from March 2020 through September 2021 due to the pandemic.
Merkler said 2,072 people had completed the training as of Sept. 16, 2021, with an additional 320 scheduled between now and October.
Thus far, 387 attendees came from 15 county school districts, one charter school, two county colleges, county vo-tech, two universities, one private school and two parochial schools.
“School personnel are in contact with large numbers of individuals throughout the day and events may occur where someone in the school is severely injured and requires immediate attention to stop bleeding. This training is just another tool they can use to assist in keeping their schools and communities safe,” Merkler said.
There is no cost to the attendee, Merkler said. Training is financed through the state’s Homeland Security Grant Funding, which covered the cost of instructors, training materials and Individual First Aid Kits. There is no recertification process required.
In addition, the prosecutor’s office offers other training opportunities to law enforcement in the county and beyond on a regular basis, Merkler said.
“There are also times when we invite non-law enforcement to certain types of training that mutually impacts law enforcement and the non-law enforcement entity we invite for that training. This type of training would be topic-specific and offered on the availability of training.
“It gives the individual the training, tools and confidence to handle situations they may encounter in their day-to-day life that could end up saving a life,” he said.
Oliveri noted that Katie Barasky Fama and the North Brunswick Pub made a donation for Brothers Before Others’ next presentation.
“Katie and her family have an incorruptible devotion to supporting their military and civil servants which is evident the minute you step into any of their establishments,” Oliveri said.
Katie’s father Bruce Barasky and their family are the original owners of the pub, which opened in 1979. Katie Fama is the general manager, and has been involved with coordinating an Ugly Sweater event Brothers Before Others holds every year at the pub.
She said the pub is centrally located and some of the members live in the area, so the North Brunswick Pub is happy to host their fundraising events.
And as such, when members of the organization explained the Kits for Kids initiative, she said she wanted to donate because “I’m aware of how this works. We have been a part of the township for 40-plus years and I think the safety of the children comes first.”
Fama’s husband is a police officer and she said knowing officer morale has been down during the past few years, she said, “anything we can do to lift their spirits and help their community” is something she and her family have always done.
Fama noted that her family recently sold their other location, the Reade Street Pub in Manhattan’s TriBeCa neighborhood – noting the parallel that many Brothers Before Others members were of service during and after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 – and the family restaurant was just five blocks north of the World Trade Center.
“We were very involved in taking care of law enforcement and firefighters,” she said.
Although her brother Brian, who previously ran the Reade Street Pub, is now focusing on the family’s new venture, Barasky’s Colts Neck Pub in Monmouth County, the North Brunswick Pub is still “the mothership” and plans to hold another Brothers Before Others event this summer.
While North Brunswick was Brothers Before Others’ first presentation, the charity is national so the goal with this initiative is not limited to any specific region.
“Violence in our schools is a national issue,” Oliveri said.
Oliveri also noted the importance of police-community relations.
“I just want it noted that it makes me so proud of not just our charity, but this profession as a whole, that as you hear calls from all over the country for defunding police, here you have a tangible sign of just how much American police officers still care for their communities.
“The $6,000 needed for this presentation came directly from the pockets of our 2,200 charity members, all of whom are active or retired law enforcement officers from all over the country and many of whom have never even been to New Jersey, let alone North Brunswick. That is how invested in their service our members are. That is the American police officer,” Oliveri said.
To donate to Brothers Before Others or to the National Flower Fund, or for more information, visit www.brothersbeforeothers.org.
The organization is on social media under the same name.
To donate directly to the Kits for Kids By Cops initiative, there is a Facebook page under that same name where there is currently an active fundraiser for future presentations.
Contact Jennifer Amato at firstname.lastname@example.org.