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More Than 150 Get Free CPR Lesson from West Hartford Fire Department

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free 'hands-only' CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program Thursday evening in West Hartford Center.

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

By Ronni Newton

More than 150 people are better equipped to respond to someone in distress and potentially save a life after participating in CPR training that the West Hartford Fire Department hosted in the Center Thursday evening.

Firefighter/Paramedic Matt Traber, the department’s planning & recovery as well as community resource officer, was joined by Apparatus Operator Bill Schappert, and the two set up a table right on the sidewalk outside Westfield Bank at 977 Farmington Ave. From 6-9 p.m. on a busy Thursday evening, they invited and encouraged passersby to stop for a free CPR lesson.

They spread out a mat to provide padding under the knees while people were working on the CPR mannequin. “We brought four of them in hopes to accommodate a large group walking by. I’m glad we did,” Traber said in an email.

He said that while things started off slowly, as the evening progressed the crowds increased and they were teaching non-stop.

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

“Bill and I greeted everyone that passed by us and we tried to bring them in,” he said. “Some were resistant while others stopped in their tracks and said yes. We had a lot of people who initially said no return to us as they passed by again.”

“We plan to do more, but teaching 153 people CPR in one evening is a great start,” Assistant Chief Hugh O’Callaghan said.

Hands-only CPR is exactly what it sounds like – restoring someone’s breathing using your hands only – and according to the American Red Cross it’s highly effective. “If you see a teen or adult suddenly collapse, hands-only CPR is the recommended form of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). It not only increases the likelihood of surviving breathing and cardiac emergencies that occur outside of medical settings, but it’s simple to learn and easy to remember,” the American Red Cross website states.

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

Traber said it was definitely a “successful evening of community service and public education.”

Chief Greg Priest said once the CPR lessons started, the event quickly gained traction thanks in part to social media, and was even more successful than expected.

“Our guys are really coming up with and executing great ideas for engaging the community,” he said, praising Traber and Schappert for organizing the program, as well as the leadership of O’Callaghan.

“Our CPR save rate is higher than the state average,” Priest said, and can be improved through expanding bystander CPR training. The event also helped the department in its community engagement efforts.

Priest would like West Hartford to earn the American Heart Association’s “HEARTSafe Communities” designation and having a high level of CPR training will help strengthen the “chain of survival.”

The HEARTSafe designation “recognizes and stimulates efforts by individual communities to improve their system for preventing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) from becoming irreversible death.” In addition to CPR training, having defibrillators accessible to the public and “aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders and area hospitals” are also factors.

Priest said he is “very proud and pleased” and expects more pop-up CPR training programs in the future.

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

The West Hartford Fire Department hosted a free ‘hands-only’ CPR program on Farmington Avenue. Courtesy photo

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