At Kansas Speedway, area fire chiefs launch a lifesaving initiative

05/17/2014 8:27 PM

06/03/2014 10:17 AM

You can save a life by remembering six little words.

Push hard. Push fast. Don’t stop.

That was the message Saturday at the Kansas Speedway to kick off a collaborative program in the metropolitan area that officials say will help more people survive sudden cardiac arrest.

The Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs, which represents 72 area fire departments, has partnered with regional hospitals and ambulance services in Missouri and Kansas to teach basic CPR techniques to as many people as possible.

They also plan to place many more automatic external defibrillators, or AEDs, in public places such as malls, schools, gyms and businesses, and offer training on their use. Automatic defibrillators come with simple instructions, talk the user through what to do, and use an electric shock that can restart a patient’s heart.

It’s all part of a program called HeartSafe Community.

“A few of the communities were working on this program prior,” said Richard Carrizzo, president of the Heart of America Fire Chiefs. “Then we all came together. As far as we know we’re the first in the nation to (partner like this).”

Jones credited Sarah Tufty, fire training instructor for the Kansas City, Kan., Fire Department, for bringing the idea for the collaborative program to metro fire chiefs.

The chiefs began the initiative Saturday by hoping to train more than 12,000 Boy Scouts in basic CPR techniques. Basic CPR does not feature mouth-to-mouth rescue techniques. Rather, it emphasizes immediate and rapid chest compressions, about 100 per minute, that are continued until rescue personnel arrive. In other words:

Push hard. Push fast. Don’t stop.

When the heart stops, survival depends on immediate intervention. HeartSafe aims to improve the odds of survival by training residents to immediately call 911, and then give hands-only CPR. The program also teaches people to recognize the early signs of a heart attack, which include shortness of breath, pain in the chest and left arm and jaw. Other less obvious signs of a heart attack that can occur days before include a feeling of fullness, back pain, nausea, chest pressure, squeezing or discomfort, anxiety and fatigue.

“Our plan is to attend large events,” Carrizzo said. “And businesses or anyone from the community can request this program to be taught.”

People can contact local fire departments or request training through

“I’m very passionate about this,” said John Paul Jones, chief of the KCK Fire Department. “To show you what can happen when people become educated in this hands-only CPR, last weekend we had two cardiac saves. Those two individuals were in full cardiac arrest, bystanders started basic CPR, and both survived. It can really have a dramatic impact.”

People trying to save a life have no potential liability in Missouri or Kansas, Jones said.

“Eighty percent of the time, it happens to family and friends out in public,” Jones said. “The missing link is the hands-only CPR by a bystander between the time the cardiac arrest happens and the time we can get there. Again, if somebody appears to be in cardiac arrest, get down, start CPR immediately — push hard, push fast, don’t stop — then tell somebody to call 911 immediately and find the nearest AED, because the sooner they are defibrillated, the better chance they have of survival.”

Kathie Conwell at Providence Medical Center praised the initiative.

“We’ve got every emergency response team in the metro collaborating on this,” she said. “We may compete in other ways, but we are all together on making Kansas City a HeartSafe community.”

Jones said the simple training will make a difference — as long as people act fast.

“I truly believe this is going to have an incredible impact,” Jones said. “But you can’t stand back and say ‘I don’t have a certification card!’ There is no certification card. What’s most important is that people just do it! With this, anybody can be a lifesaver.”

To reach James A. Fussell, call 816-234-4460 or send email to


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