Wis. middle school students learn hands-only CPR

In April, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill requiring Wisconsin schools to provide instruction in cardiopulmonary and cardiocerebral resuscitation

By Maria Lockwood
Superior Telegram

SUPERIOR, Wis. — Superior's heart health got a boost Thursday.

In a single school day, more than 300 Superior Middle School students learned hands-only CPR.

"This is an amazing opportunity for all seventh grade students in the Superior School District," said health and reading teacher Jeremy Bird.

In what one teacher described as controlled chaos, Superior Middle School seventh graders rotated through four different stations — hands-only CPR, Automatic External Defibrillator basics, first-aid basics and introduction to firefighting — as part of "Seventh Grade Heart Health and Safety Day." Off-duty members of the Superior Fire Department led the 12-minute modules.

"An AED is like a car," firefighter John Prendergast told each group. "If you can operate one, you can operate all of them."

In another section of the room, firefighter Corey Larson led students through a checklist leading up to CPR — make sure you're in a safe area, check for responsiveness, call 911, check for breathing, begin CPR. The seventh graders pumped their arms up and down to the beat of "Staying Alive" as they worked hands-on with mannequins.

"It was cool," said Curran Starry when his group finished the CPR station. "It was easier than I thought it was going to be."

He said the training would help him know what to do in case it ever happens for real.

"We've been trying to get into the schools the last five years or so to do something," said battalion chief Scott Gordon with the Superior Fire Department. This is the fourth year the department has been offering CPR classes to businesses and organizations in the area through its paid for services division.

"Our goal is to train people in the community to the highest level at zero cost to the community," Gordon said.

The training can mean the difference between life and death for a victim of cardiac arrest.

"The sooner CPR is started, the better chance you have of saving somebody's life, that's an absolute fact," Gordon said.

Yet 80 percent of out-of-hospital cardiac arrests happen in homes, Bird said, and only 46 percent of those people get the immediate help they need to sustain them until first responders arrive.

"Survival rates diminish 10 percent for every minute compressions are delayed," Bird said.

In April, Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill requiring Wisconsin schools to provide instruction in cardiopulmonary and cardiocerebral resuscitation. The training must include hands-on CPR practice and education on AEDs. The bill doesn't take effect until the 2017-2018 school year, but Superior took a proactive approach.

"After this week, over 300 students will have received training and hands on experience with CPR and AEDs," Bird said. "We strongly support this mandate. It will not only benefit the students, but also the community."

A week ago, he said, students would have been scared to grab an AED. Now they know not only where the defibrillators are kept, but how to use them.

Today, the students will be tested on their CPR technique. Bird plans to gather a group of youngsters to teach staff members the life-saving maneuver. They may also share what they learned with family members at home.

The school district and fire department teamed up two weeks ago to set up the classes.

"Together, we have created training that can save a life," Bird said. "We all have the passion to educate as many students and community members in hands-only CPR training."

The focus is on hands-only instead of traditional CPR.

"American Heart Association studies show that 'people feel more confident performing hands-only CPR and are more likely to act if called upon,'" Bird said.

Thursday's event pumped up the community's heart safety net, and put it on the path to becoming an official Heart Safe Community. According to Gordon, no Wisconsin community has earned that award. Superior could be the first.

Larson said a certain percent of people in the community have to be trained in CPR and a certain number of AEDs must be present in the community to earn the Heart Safe Community award. AED locations must also be mapped out.

"We are right at the beginning phase," Larson said. "It's a lofty goal to set."

The partnership with the school district will spike their numbers in the right direction. Gordon emphasized that the firefighters could work with other schools throughout the area to offer similar classes. They're not restricted to Superior.

Thursday's event was part of a week-long health unit in which the seventh graders heard from a CPR survivor and a Gold Cross Ambulance paramedic. It went perfectly, Bird said, and is just the beginning.

"We plan to continue this for years upon years," he said. "Eighteen hundred students will have this training by the time they're seniors."

Copyright 2017 the Superior Telegram

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