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School, Health Officials Praise CPR, Defibrillator Training Initiative

Superintendent of Schools Joseph V. Erardi, Jr and Health District Director Donna Culbert are both praising a recent unanimous State Board of Education resolution encouraging Connecticut public schools to provide students with training in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and the use of automated external defibrillators.

“I support any measure that is proactive with the intent to better educate students, staff, and community to life saving training skills,” Dr Erardi told The Newtown Bee. “I look forward to working with both school and town officials to move this initiative from paper to practice within our district.”

Ms Culbert said school-based training is an excellent opportunity for Newtown to strengthen its chain of survival — the specific chain links related to this training being the immediate recognition of cardiac arrest and activation of the emergency response system, early CPR and early defibrillation.

“Providing this invaluable training to our students will empower them with life-saving and life-changing knowledge and skills,” Ms Culbert said. “Our students are our future — this is a terrific concept.”

The board passed the resolution in support of legislation that Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed in June (Public Act 12-198), which focused on the availability of CPR and automated external defibrillator training materials for the classroom.

Ellington High School students Megan Chamberland, 17, Gabriela Ewald, 16, and Julia Scavetta, 16, presented information to the board on CPR and gave a demonstration of how valuable it is in an emergency. The students are members of Ellington Rescue Post 512, a nonprofit organization run by EHS students that allows them to receive hands-on emergency medical training.

Following the demonstration, the board approved the resolution to identify resources and existing related training materials, with the goal of creating a “generation of lifesavers.”

In just the past month, there have been three news reports about an adult or high school student who performed CPR and saved someone’s life. So-called “bystander CPR” provides oxygenated blood to the brain and heart in the first crucial minutes of cardiac arrest.

Adding an automated external defibrillator (AED) to the mix can increase the chances of survival by shocking the victim’s heart back into a regular rhythm until professional help arrives.

The board directed the State Department of Education to work with partners such as the American Heart Association, American Red Cross, the Connecticut chapter of the American College of Cardiology, and others to identify existing resources and help provide access to materials for districts.

AEDs can dramatically increase the chances of survival of many cardiac arrest victims. According to statistics from the American Heart Association:

*Less than eight percent of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside the hospital survive. In many communities this can be because the time interval from activation of EMS to arrival of these medical personnel may be seven to eight minutes or longer.

*Effective bystander CPR, provided immediately after sudden cardiac arrest, can double or triple (approximately 15–24 percent) a victim’s chance of survival.

*In places where widespread first responder CPR training has been provided (e.g., as part of community lay rescuer AED programs), survival rates from witnessed sudden cardiac arrest associated with ventricular fibrillation have been reported to be as high as 49 percent to 74 percent.

*Other studies suggest that when AEDs are used to deliver a shock within the first minute, that the patient’s heart can be restarted and be beating on its own again before EMS arrives in as high as 90 percent of the cases.

*Brain death and permanent death start to occur in just four to six minutes after someone experiences cardiac arrest. Cardiac arrest can be reversed if it is treated within a few minutes with an electric shock to the heart to restore a normal heartbeat. This process is called defibrillation.

*A victim’s chances of survival are reduced by seven to ten percent with every minute that passes without CPR and defibrillation. Few attempts at resuscitation succeed after ten minutes.

Under the resolution, the life-saving resources will be available by 2015-16 and all schools should be accessing them by 2016-17.

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