CPR and AED training saves lives

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Stephen Underwood
  • 439th Airlift Wing

CPR and AED training saves lives.

That’s the message members of the Westover Fire Department want Airmen to know ahead of National CPR and AED Awareness Week June 1 - 7.

According to the American Heart Association, about 75 to 80 percent of all cardiac arrests happen outside of a hospital or medical care setting. Further, the survival rate for someone suffering a cardiac arrest decreases by 10 percent each minute until medical aid is rendered.

“Anyone can save a life and time is critical,” said Westover firefighter Kevin Pearson, an AED trainer. “Having someone who knows CPR and how to operate an AED can make the difference between life and death for someone going through cardiac arrest.”

An automated external defibrillator or AED is a lifesaving device designed to get the heart beating again after it stops by delivering electric shock, whereas cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is a procedure to keep the blood pumping when the heart stops. Both can be critical lifesaving tools that can double or even triple the survival chances of someone suffering cardiac arrest, according to Pearson.

“We’re pretty meticulous about that, a lot of us check the AEDs on a daily occurrence,” said Westover firefighter Alex Esquivel. “That’s one of the important lifesaving skills of the department. We have basic checks we do every day and then more advanced checks periodically.” 

Westover firefighters said that 18 AED devices are deployed around the base and are routinely inspected to ensure that they are fully functional and up to date. Firefighters are tasked with maintaining them to ensure they are working properly through changing out batteries and testing.

“AEDs are made to be simple to use, they actually were designed to be used by a third grader,” said Capt. Brandon Requa, a lead CPR and AED instructor. “

All Westover firefighters are trained in CPR and AED, but the department also has nine trained CPR instructors on-hand that offer training year-round. The department encourages all Airmen on base to become CPR and AED trained. The basic training course is approximately 2.5 to 3 hours long and can be completed within a day.

Westover Fire Capt. Jonathan Moorcroft runs the base CPR and AED training program along with lead instructors Requa and Capt. Mike Rio. Requa said that the department regularly holds CPR and AED training every few months.

“A lot of individuals come to Westover fire to get their CPR training,” Requa said. “We actually encourage members of other units to come and get certified. We just had a few members from explosive ordnance disposal that came in. We also will allow spouses of military members on base to come and get certified.”

Pearson said that the department is currently training more members in other units to become CPR and AED instructors, to ensure there will always be trainers available when members deploy. Westover firefighters have trained security forces and maintenance members as certified instructors to build out programs in their own units.

CPR and AED instructor certification courses are longer, and all instructors are evaluated by Westover firefighters continuously to ensure they are teaching proper technique. Requa said that the department is only offering instructor courses to units that show a need for members to become instructors. However, the regular CPR and AED training class is offered to any member, regardless of need.

“The more people that are trained the better,” Requa said. “In the moment, when you’re jittery or nervous, it can be hard to sometimes think clearly. But when you have CPR and AED training, you can rely on that to help guide you in that situation. The training is hands-on and allows someone to get comfortable performing CPR. ”

Requa said this year the department will be participating in the nationwide Stop the Bleed program, helping train Airmen to use tourniquets and lifesaving techniques to apply pressure to puncture wounds and cuts. Stop the Bleed training will begin this summer and is roughly the same amount of time as the CPR and AED course.

“There are some serious heavy tools and sharp edges around here,” Requa said. “We want to make sure Airmen are comfortable throwing on a tourniquet or applying pressure to someone who gets a puncture wound or cut. CPR is very effective, but does not work when someone is bleeding out, that’s when knowing how to use a tourniquet becomes lifesaving.”

Airmen who are interested in becoming CPR and AED certified, should contact the Westover Fire Department at 413-557-3818.