Can the City of Rockford save your life?

Training and strategy implemented for cardiac arrest response



Rockford Ambulance’s Chuck Premer watches City of Rockford’s Kim McKay practice chest compressions.

Survival rates for cardiac arrest patients decline ten percent for every minute that passes without intervention. Rockford’s Chief of Public Safety/Police is in the process of offering the quickest response possible for those in cardiac arrest in the City and surrounding areas. Rockford is again setting new, high standards by participating in a pilot program with the Kent County Emergency Medical Services (KCEMS) which advocates promotion, training and availability of new Hands Only CPR (HO CPR) techniques with the use of automatic external defibrillator (AED).

According to Jones, every member of the city staff is in the process of training to know exactly what to do if someone should have a heart attack in their presence or nearby. According to Jones, new best practices for cardiac arrest treatment do not include mouth-to-mouth anymore, but quick response in chest compressions. So sophisticated are the new AEDs, that the machines literally talk a user through the steps of life-saving treatment.

Jones said he was in contact with staff at KCEMS as part of the City’s consolidation of the Fire Department, Police Department and Department of Public Works into one Department of Safety where all members are qualified and trained to respond to fire and medical emergency calls. Jones himself had to attend fire fighter training along with his staff and today the members of the three departments are all cross-trained. The move was an unusual one designed to make best use of available staff for cost-savings while maintaining a high level of service to residents.

While working with the KCEMS, Jones heard about a new program, not yet in use by any other West Michigan municipality or township, again putting the City in as a cutting-edge provider of new standards of care.

“We have the AEDs in all our police cars and fire trucks, but there isn’t one here at City Hall,” Jones noted. He said the first step in implementing the program is for his staff to identify where in our community AEDs are already located. For example, Jones noted, Byrne Electrical Specialists has an AED next to the door of the infirmary. Other companies may well have one or be able to be a location where an AED would be available in a cardiac arrest case. Another good location, he stated, might be the downtown welcome center where volunteer police help direct visitors.

Promotion of the ease of use by nearly anyone in reach of an AED is an important part of the process. According to KCEMS literature, “In many cases bystanders are very reluctant to start CPR because they are unwilling to do mouth to mouth on a stranger… With HO-CPR that’s all changed. Unfortunately, most of the general public is not aware of HO-CPR.”

Jones said Rockford was a good fit for partnering with KCEMS for a community-wide campaign to make the public aware of the ease and importance of HO CPR as well as having city staff entirely trained in the technique. “Seventy-five to eighty percent of the city staff already knows it because of our consolidation of our three departments,” Jones said. The remaining staff, including those of Krause Memorial Library, participated in a training session offered free of charge by Rockford Ambulance, on Tuesday, November 13.

Learning to perform CO CPR with the use of an EAD is so simple that the training is just about 20 minutes. The machines, when activated, tell the person using the machine exactly what to do and how to do it. Chest compressions are correctly administered to the beat of the BeeGees song, “Staying Alive.”

The KCEMS program implements what is known as an ECHO response, where ideally, the closest person to the victim begins emergency treatment until professionals arrive. According to Jones, speed in action makes a huge difference to the chance of a person surviving cardiac arrest. “Cardiac arrest is only about one percent of the medical emergencies we see, but it is the most time-critical.”

“We are starting with the basics, having everyone on city staff trained,” said Jones. He sees the program expanding into the city’s volunteer workers, neighborhood watch members, school staff, even the business community and other individuals who interact with the public.

Jones said in a perfect world there would be some technological way for those who know the technique to be contacted should an incident occur not far from their location, but as such that isn’t possible. For now, people who call 911—always the first step in a medical emergency—may be told where an AED is and instructed to begin medical response.

He envisions long-term strategy to increase locations of AED units and availability, such as remedying the lack of a unit at City Hall. Ideally, Rockford could become a community where many individuals are aware of the importance and ease of HO CPR. He thinks it might be possible for the city to host a video of the training on the website and encourage residents to learn what to do. “At the end of the day, it is training that saves lives.”

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