City trains employees to save lives

Public defibrillating and CPR programs are growing trends in cities nationwide.
Thursday, June 17, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:09 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

The city of Columbia this year has completed training 250 employees in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of defibrillators.

The most recent training session, for eight employees, was held last week at the Parkade Center. The training began in January.

“So many people have volunteered to take the training, and they are interested in doing it,” said Human Resources Director Margrace Buckler.

Automated external defibrillators are computerized devices that analyze the heart’s rhythm for abnormalities and, if necessary, direct a rescuer to give an electrical shock to the victim of cardiac arrest in an attempt to restore a normal heartbeat.

The policy of training city employees in CPR and the use of defibrillators took effect late last summer after the Columbia City Council approved the initial funding of $42,000 as part of the fiscal 2003 budget for purchasing equipment and training. So far, 18 defibrillators have been placed in 17 public facilities throughout the city, and 15 to 20 training sessions were conducted for employees from each location.

The purpose of the public access defibrillation program, developed by the American Heart Association, is to serve the community, Buckler said. All the city buildings are public facilities, and defibrillators would be particularly useful in places where many people visit, including the parks and recreation facilities, she said.

“I appreciate any time they have life rescuing (efforts),” said Columbia resident D’Lisa Givens, who watched last week’s training session.

It is also a great educational opportunity for employees, said Dana Johns, an Employee Health nurse with the Columbia Human Resources Department who conducted the training.

“You never know when somebody is going to have a cardiac arrest; it could be a family member, it could be a friend, it could be a coworker or it could be someone you don’t know,” she said. “It’s a knowledge to save someone’s life; there is nothing like that.”

Defibrillators are easy to operate, “extremely accurate and relatively inexpensive,” according to a report from the Human Resources Department. Each defibrillator cost $1,450.

In recent years, the effort to have public access to defibrillators is a growing trend. Many other cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, have established similar programs. Based on information from the National Center for Early Defibrillation, sudden cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in adults in the United States, and every year it claims the lives of nearly 225,000 Americans, one death every one to two minutes.


External heart defibrillators

In many cases, the key to survival is early defibrillation. Studies indicate that more than 90 percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims could survive if someone reaches them with a defibrillator within one or two minutes of collapse, and the survival rates drop to less than 5 percent if defibrillation therapy is delayed more than 10 minutes, according to the NCED. Ambulances sometimes take longer to arrive at the scene of the emergency.

The city’s CPR and defibrillator training sessions, which follow American Heart Association guidelines, last about three hours and focus on the “chain of survival.” The chain consists of four stages: early access to 911, early CPR, early use of a defibrillator and early advanced life support provided by emergency medics.

CPR is the initial step in saving a life and can help determine whether a cardiac-arrest victim needs defibrillation. After using videos to explain the procedure, training instructors go over scenarios, including heart attack, stroke and choking situations, by demonstrating with mannequins and allowing trainees to practice.

Compared to the CPR training 10 years ago, which was held four times in a one-month period, the current one-time training is much less time-consuming, more practical and easier, said Paula Bollinger, an intern at the Parks and Recreation Department.

Johns said people are grateful for the training.

“It was something I wanted to learn,” said Cindy Hansen, a ceramic instructor for the Parks and Recreation Department. “It is important for us to be educated for life saving.”

Employees who complete the training are certified for two years.

To date, none of the defibrillators in city buildings have been used. Officials plan to add several more next year and continue the training.

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