The winners of this year’s Heart Safe Community awards were announced during Friday morning’s general session at Fire-Rescue Med in Las Vegas. Cam Pollock, vice president of global marketing for Physio Control, presented the awards, which Physio-Control Inc. began sponsoring in 2001 as part of an automated external defibrillator (AED) awareness program. It has since expanded to recognize much more, said Pollock. “It’s really an entire system-based approach,” he said.
The Heart Safe Community awards, sponsored by Physio Control, recognize fire service-based EMS systems and other EMS systems that have used creative approaches to treat cardiac-related diseases within the communities they serve. This award takes a holistic approach, valuing the team effort communities employ to integrate systems that lead to better results. Agencies must show how they have improved the quality of out-of-hospital resuscitation through continuous efforts to improve resuscitation quality, such as bystander CPR, AED development, out-of-hospital 12-lead ECGs, and 12-lead advanced notification to receiving facilities, and other continuous efforts to improve resuscitation quality. The award is given in two categories: one goes to a department representing populations of more than 100,000, and one is given to a department representing fewer than 100,000.
This year’s winner for the first population category is Hillsborough County Fire Rescue (HCFR) of Tampa, Fla. HCFR stood out for its creative implementation of a community-wide bystander CPR training program, which trained 10,000 Hillsborough County eighth graders in CPR. The community now reports bystander CPR rates of 60 percent.
“We did not have a very good CPR rate in our community just a few years ago, our rate was about half of what it is now,” said Chief David Travis. Teaching CPR in the public school system “was the single greatest factor in increasing CPR awareness in our community,” he said.
HCRF is also using new technology and software to track cardiac arrest outcomes as well as catalogue the physical locations of the more than 1,000 AEDs throughout the county. Also, HCFR has partnered with all local hospitals, an effort that has improved cardiac outcomes for patients with acute coronary syndrome and sudden cardiac arrest.
Sandy Springs (Ga.) Fire Rescue & EMS was named the winner for the smaller population category, standing out for its outstanding bystander CPR rate of 59 percent in 2010—more than twice the national average. Since 2007, Sandy Springs has trained more than 4,800 residents in CPR and AED use and also placed more than 150 AEDs in the city, an effort that resulted in 17 saved lives.The department has also launched a pilot program to train EMS providers to use therapeutic hypothermia as treatment for cardiac arrest. Sandy Spring has partnered with the mayor and city officials in their efforts, and they have also partnered with law enforcement. All Sandy Springs police vehicles also are equipped with AEDs, and all officers are trained in their use.
“We started our department in 2006 with a rate of less than 1%, and we’ve made these improvements in a short amount of years,” said Shannon Cichosz.“We’re really honored,”
An honorable mention was also given to the Delavan (Wis.) Rescue Squad. Lt. Chris Kaiser represented the department. “We’re a small community in rural Wisconsin, so this means a lot to us. We don’t have a lot of resources, but we do the best we can," he said.
Reflecting on the award winners, Pollock noted the importance of tracking what your department is doing to affect change in these areas. “Measure what you are doing if you want to see improvement in your system,” he said.