By Nancy Dashwood
DASSEL, MN Less than a year ago, Dassel City Council Member Justin Bemenderfer presented information to the council about a “Heart Safe” program, which offers grant funding and training to smaller cities to install AEDs (automated external defibrillators) in highly-trafficked public areas.
Dassel City Council green lights project
Dassel City Council members indicated they were in support of the project, and a Heart Safe Community Committee comprised of members of the council, the fire department, and Dassel citizens was formed to turn a good idea into a reality.
Working together for the cause
“Over the past six months, the committee has been evaluating the community readiness for cardiac events, taking actions to educate bystanders on what to do in an emergency, and solving for gaps in community health safety,” Bemenderfer said.
The Heart Safe Community Committee’s primary focus is on ways to make the community a safer place to live, work, and play, by being prepared to reduce the number of deaths and disabilities associated with sudden cardiac arrest.
Bemenderfer shared some current statistics regarding how quickly a cardiac event can prove fatal.
“Sudden cardiac arrest accounts for almost 400,000 deaths per year. Survival is tragically low, at approximately 8 percent nationwide.
“Here, in Minnesota, we have impressive results for resuscitation efforts, with survival totaling around 12 percent,” he said.
“Minnesota agencies and hospitals employ the latest technologies to aggressively manage cardiac arrest patients. This is why the state shows such good survival rates from out-of -hospital cardiac arrest. However, we would like to bring that survival rate even higher and the public can help,” Bemenderfer added.
A fighting chance of survival
Dassel’s Heart Safe Community Committee members learned that bystander CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is described as when a sudden cardiac arrest victim receives CPR immediately following, or as soon as they are discovered, by a 911 caller or an onlooker, Bemenderfer indicated.
Removing the fear factor
Willingness to provide CPR can be impeded by lack of confidence and skill, fear of liability, and potential risk with mouth-to-mouth contact.
New guidelines and training programs have worked to alleviate the concerns of bystanders, but citizens of Minnesota have yet to see a significant impact.
Around the US, bystander CPR rates are as high as 61 percent; however, in Minnesota, the bystander CPR rate is significantly lower, at only 38 percent.
This indicates that more than 60 percent of Minnesotans suffering sudden cardiac arrest are not getting one of the easiest and potentially lifesaving procedures.
A large percentage of sudden cardiac arrests happen in the home, and this population has a 50 percent less chance of receiving CPR than in events that occur in public.
Dassel’s Heart Safe Community Committee pursued several grant opportunities which would allow members to purchase AEDs and associated equipment, and prepare for training citizens.
Dassel’s Mayor Ron Hungerford, Bemenderfer, Dassel History Center and Ergot Museum Director Carolyn Holje, and Dassel Fire Chief Dale Grochow accepted a $1,450 grant from CenterPoint Energy’s Doreen Keith June 14.
The funding allows the Heart Safe Community Committee to purchase an AED, as well as adult and pediatric supplies to go with the unit.
Once purchased, the AED unit and supplies will be installed at the history center.
Bemenderfer spoke on behalf of the committee. “We are grateful to CenterPoint for partnering with us,” he said.
The Heart Safe Community Committee will next decide how they want to go about training anyone and everyone interested in learning how to use an AED.
Current units are so advanced, they talk the user through the process of using the AED on a patient.
Holje indicated many of her volunteers have already expressed interest in learning how to use the device.
More success ahead
Dassel’s Heart Safe Community Committee has also been awarded an $800 grant towards the purchase of an additional AED through the Allina Health Heart Safe Communities AED grant program. Once purchased, that AED will be installed at Dassel City Hall.
Later this year, the committee intends to apply for a Heart Safe Community designation.
That designation, awarded by the American Heart Association, is only given once a community has met the guidelines for application.
The American Heart Association’s Heart Safe Community designation is proof that steps have been taken to assess Dassel’s needs, and deems the community has been strengthened for readiness for cardiac events.
Dassel volunteer firefighter Tom Weseloh, who also serves as a city council member and member of the Heart Safe Community Committee, is pleased at the progress being made.
“There is nothing better than to have a heart-ready community,” he said. “It is so helpful to the fire department when they come on scene and CPR and AED use is already in progress.”
How to help in Dassel, or beyond
Anyone interested in learning how to use AEDs is welcome to do so once trainings are scheduled in Dassel.
People interested in getting a Heart Safe Community Committee started in their cities may see links to both CenterPoint Energy’s and Allina’s programs at dassel.cokato.com.