Schools prepare for cardiac emergencies

Contributed by Bob Wheaton-wheatonb@michigan.gov

LANSING (Mich.) – Children and adults in Michigan can be kept safer when schools are prepared to provide CPR and use a defibrillator in response to cardiac emergencies.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging schools to participate in Michigan Schools CPR/Automated External Defibrillator Drill Week beginning today. The week is part of American Heart Month during February.

Since about 1 in 5 Michiganders are in a Michigan school building each day, schools are a key location to be prepared for a sudden cardiac arrest that could jeopardize the lives of students, staff or visitors. Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden loss of heart function that stops blood from flowing.

Every year, approximately 326,000 people in the U.S. fall victim to sudden cardiac arrest at home or in public locations such as schools, with only 10 percent surviving. Prompt delivery of CPR and defibrillation of a victim’s heart can double or triple the person’s chance of surviving.

Annual CPR/automated external defibrillator drills can help schools prepare to recognize sudden cardiac arrest and provide immediate intervention which is critical for survival.

Since July 2014, state law has required Michigan schools to have a written cardiac emergency response plan. In December 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that requires CPR/automated external defibrillation instruction no later than the 2017-2018 school year for students enrolled in grades seven to 12.

MDHHS – together with the Michigan Department of Education, American Heart Association and Michigan Alliance to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young – developed the MI HEARTSafe School Program in 2015 to support and recognize schools that take steps to prepare for a cardiac emergency. Designation as a MI HEARTSafe School requires a CPR/defibrillator drill. To date, 268 schools have received the award.

“Cardiac arrest is often an unexpected event and is especially frightening when a young person is involved,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Early recognition and immediate intervention is critical for survival, and our hope is that all Michigan schools will know how to respond when someone – whether a student or an adult – has a cardiac arrest. We support the idea of designating drill weeks throughout the year for this purpose.”

The American Heart Association recommends the “Chain of Survival” that includes five important steps:

  • Early recognition of a cardiac arrest and calling 9-1-1.
  • Rapid bystander response with hands-only CPR, which is done without mouth-to-mouth breathing. It is recommended for use by people who see a teen or adult suddenly collapse in an “out of hospital” setting. It consists of two easy steps: calling 9-1-1 and pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest.
  • Use of an automated external defibrillator.
  • Advanced life support.
  • Post-cardiac care.

Using CPR within one minute and an automated external defibrillator within three to five minutes of a victim’s collapse is crucial for increasing the chance of survival.

Schools previously participated in the drills Nov. 7-11, 2016, but are encouraged to practice the drill at any convenient time throughout the school year.

“The important thing is that students and staff have a chance to practice at least once a year so they know what to do in the event of a real emergency,” Wells said. “Publicizing the drill weeks statewide helps remind everyone to make sure it gets on the calendar.”

For additional details and application forms for MI HEARTSafe Schools, visitwww.migrc.org/miheartsafe. For more information about sudden cardiac arrest of the young prevention in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/scdy.