Trained for emergencies
|Response plan, CPR, AEDs all lifesavers|
In the event of a heart attack or other first aid emergency, Gwinnett schools and other facilities are equipped to respond. Every school and GCPS facility has adults on staff who have been trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), first aid, and the use of automated external defibrillators or AEDs. Every school and building has an AED on site. Larger facilities have multiple AEDs.
In sudden cardiac arrest, the heart can go into ventricular fibrillation, losing its “rhythm” and its ability to effectively pump blood to the brain and other vital organs. An AED is a computerized device that analyzes a person’s heart rhythms and applies a “shock” to restore the heart’s rhythm, if needed. CPR also is a key element in the cardiac emergency response plan as this life-saving measure helps circulate oxygen-rich blood to the brain until the heart’s rhythm can be restored.
Training and education improves safety
Last school year, nearly 1,000 faculty and staff members received training through the school system’s Gwinnett First Response program and that’s the goal again this school year. With 30 to 40 instructors— including staff in GCPS’ PE and Health Office, county nurses, and Gwinnett Fire Dept. personnel— the program provides training for both GCPS staff members and students. Training is conducted face-to-face and online.
GCPS Health and PE Director Chuck Truett points out that emergency response and basic first aid are included throughout the school system’s health curriculum at an age-appropriate level. The 18-week Introduction to Health class, typically taken by Gwinnett 9th graders, includes the most comprehensive emergency response training. As more Gwinnett high school health teachers are becoming certified by the Red Cross as emergency-response instructors, more GCPS students will get the opportunity to become certified themselves as part of their health class, he says.
A number of Gwinnett schools have taken the extra step to become Project S.A.V.E HeartSafe Schools, completing a comprehensive plan for responding to sudden cardiac emergencies and practicing their emergency response.
Coordinated by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Project S.A.V.E. (Sudden Cardiac Death: Awareness, Vision for Prevention and Education) offers free consulting services to Georgia schools on cardiac emergency response. To date, more than 700 schools statewide have been recognized as HeartSafe, including these Gwinnett schools: Brookwood Elementary, Cooper Elementary, Corley Elementary, Craig Elementary, Harmony Elementary, Harris Elementary, Level Creek Elementary, Summerour Middle, Lanier Middle, and Parkview High.
“We have found conclusively that a school response plan that is well-conceived and practiced really does make a difference,” says Alison Ellison, coordinator of Project S.A.V.E. “In the past two years, 19 lives— nine students and 10 adults—have been saved in Georgia schools, most in Project S.A.V.E. HeartSafe schools."
Project S.A.V.E. is affiliated with Project ADAM, a Wisconsin-based initiative to put AEDs in schools. Ms. Ellison suggests that parents encourage their teen to check out a new American Heart Association site for the Be the Beat project. The site educates students on emergency response with CPR and AEDs, using games, giveaways, a virtual world of heart-smart avatars, and more.