City staff — lifesavers?

Employees to get CPR certified

By Luke Groskopf

Journal Staff Writer

It’s an idyllic morning — sun’s out, soft breeze and birds are chirping. A perfect morning to take the dog for a walk, so you do. But soon, something doesn’t feel right. Your jaw hurts and you feel dizzy. The next minute you collapse to the sidewalk, debilitated by terrible chest pain. You’re having a heart attack. You pass out, unconscious.

If luck is with you, a doctor or paramedic is strolling past at that very moment. If not, the next best thing is a CPR-certified layperson. Your odds of such a person being near are increasing, thanks to a partnership between the city and the Cortez Fire Protection District.

Chief Jeff Vandevoorde recently proposed certifying all Cortez city staff in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. City Manager Shane Hale was amenable to the idea, and the first batch of employees — about 20 of them — went through training yesterday.

“It’s a smart, common sense thing to do,” Vandevoorde said. “City employees are out and about (interacting) with people — the garbage guys, road department, utility crews. They could save somebody.”

Vandevoorde looks to Seattle, for all its differences to Cortez, as a model. Seattle, and surrounding King County, have one of the highest cardiac arrest survival rates in the world, largely from a concerted effort to promote certification widely. More than 70 percent of Seattleites are trained in CPR, according to a 2011 report from the Medtronic Foundation HeartRescue Project.

“The city is a big nut to crack right off the bat. Once we finish there, we’ll offer the training to the county and others,” Vandevoorde said. “It’s something to shoot for.”

He added that the revised CPR curriculum, which emphasizes chest compressions over mouth-to-mouth breaths, might make people less squeamish to help a person in need.

“The concern about picking up a disease or bacteria (from mouth contact) is eliminated,” he said.

The training is voluntary; nobody is being compelled to do it. Hale said the city employs about 125 full-time and 80 part-time workers. Some, of course, are already certified.

“It’s being offered and encouraged,” Hale said. “If someone doesn’t like blood or panics in a pressure situation, they won’t do (the training) because they wouldn’t be comfortable.”

He added: “Our staff comes into contact with lots of people each day. I’d say the odds of a city employee rendering aid at some point are fairly high. If it takes five minutes for an emergency vehicle to show up, CPR can make a difference between life and death.”

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