Consider these sobering statistics from the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada.
- As many as 45,000 Canadians experience a sudden cardiac arrest each year.
- About 1 in 80-100 Canadian children are born with heart disease.
As both staff and students have the potential to experience heart problems, this must be considered in our plans to provide first aid in schools.
With this in mind, the CBE’s Safety Advisory Services (SAS) department has been working to equip all of our schools with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs). These compact devices can restore a normal heartbeat by sending an electric pulse or shock to the heart. They are used to prevent or correct arrhythmia – a heartbeat that is uneven, too slow or too fast. And they can also restore a heartbeat in a heart that stops suddenly.
Already this school year, CBE staff experienced the life-saving value of defibrillators when a medical emergency occurred at one of our schools. A student had collapsed and school staff responded with first aid that led to the use of an AED unit. The device determined that an electrical shock was required and so a shock was applied.
Thankfully, Calgary paramedics arrived to continue aiding the student who was transported to hospital in stable condition. The responders told CBE staff they had helped save this young person’s life through their quick actions at the scene.
“Every life is precious and the investment in AEDs has already made a huge difference for one student, that student’s family and the school,” says Russ DiGiacomo, Manager of Safety Advisory Services. “Of course we hope this type of incident is a rare occurrence. But we also recognize it’s vital to have this equipment available for use by trained staff in all of our schools.”
According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, early access to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation (1 to 3 minutes after cardiac arrest) may increase chances of survival by 75 per cent or more.
So far, the SAS team has deployed 230 AEDs in schools and buildings across our system, with the final 63 to be installed during the 2018-19 school year. What began years ago with the donation of a few defibrillators, as part of a youth sport initiative, has grown into a new safety standard at CBE.
With the availability of AEDs in schools coupled with the number of trained staff, Russ says the CBE is exceeding occupational health and safety requirements for providing first aid resources. Training is provided to staff through a third-party organization, however defibrillators are fairly intuitive to use and are designed to be used by people with little or no experience.
See the links below for more information on health and safety at the CBE.