N.J. School Security Officer Saves Choking Person in School… Again

Twenty five years as a police officer trained a school security officer well.
Published: January 4, 2016

2015 was a busy year for Lodi Public Schools Security Officer Jim Byrnes.

Byrnes used the Heimlich maneuver to save a choking student on Dec. 23, the second time he’s saved a choking person in the school where he works in less than eight months.

Although Byrnes says he doesn’t consider himself a hero, he’s the perfect candidate for Campus Safety’s new Heroes program, which honors the people who work to make campuses safer every day. You can submit your Hero nomination by emailing Heroes@CampusSafetyMagazine.com.

In 25 years as a police officer Byrnes never once saved a choking person, but when he retired as a lieutenant in 2013 and began working at New Jersey’s Washington Elementary School that changed fast.

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On April 22, 2015 Byrnes, 46, was in the teacher’s lounge when a substitute teacher in her 70s began choking on a sandwich. Byrnes, who had also worked as a CPR instructor during his time with the police, sprang into action.

“I got behind her, I picked her up out of her chair,” Byrnes later told northjersey.com.

After several Heimlich thrusts Byrnes said the teacher was able to spit out her food and breathe again. The teacher was checked by a nurse and eventually finished her sandwich.

“Right place, right time, right training” Byrnes said back in April.

RELATED: WATCH: Georgia Tech Students Surprise Security Officer with Huge Holiday Gift

Amazingly, Byrnes’ lucky timing and good training was put to use again last week.

This time, Byrnes received an emergency call around noon about a student choking in a classroom. On his way to the room, Byrnes saw a teacher and a choking student on their way to the nurse’s office. Byrnes grabbed the student, thrusted twice and dislodged the object in the boy’s throat, according to the Garfield Daily Voice.

The student required no further medical attention. No word on whether or not he finished his meal.

At first glance this incredible story might seem like pure chance, but it’s actually the result of a decision by school administrators in 2013 to staff a security officer in every school in the district. That decision, combined with Byrnes’ flawless execution of his training, may be the reason two people are alive today.

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Strategy & Planning Series