The Walker County Board of Education is leading Heart Safe practices in Alabama.All of the school system's 16 schools, as well as the Walker County Center of Technology, have been deemed a Project …
The Walker County Board of Education is leading Heart Safe practices in Alabama.
All of the school system's 16 schools, as well as the Walker County Center of Technology, have been deemed a Project ADAM Heart Safe School — an impressive feat that has only been accomplished by one other school system in Alabama.
Director of Alabama LifeStart Chris Brown explained that Alabama LifeStart began 12 years ago on a mission to get more AED (automated external defibrillator) devices in Alabama schools to help prevent deaths from sudden cardiac arrest. Alabama LifeStart is affiliated with Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam's Memory), which has 14 guidelines schools must meet to be named Heart Safe.
Project ADAM is comprised of a network of hospitals across the country focused on sudden cardiac arrest awareness and death prevention in schools.
"Every one of the nurses in the Walker County Schools' district have agreed to the 14 items on this national checklist, and that makes this system, along with the Tuscaloosa City system, the first two systems in the state where every one of your schools are now qualified and certified as Heart Safe, based on these national guidelines," Brown said. "To us, that's a big deal."
Items on the checklist include a CPR-AED coordinator at each site, easy accessibility of the school's AED, a designated C.E.R.T. (cardiac emergency response team) of 5 to 10 people at each location, updated CPR-AED training for the C.E.R.T. team, the availability of a first responder kit, an annual AED drill and other necessary measures.
Each school in Walker County completed the checklist.
"In the C.E.R.T. team, we have 182 members county-wide, so that is great for our system," Walker County Schools Director of Health Services Margaret Guthrie said. "The school administrators and nurses put a lot of work into it, and I'm proud of them."
Brown said this isn't the first time the Walker County Board of Education has been recognized for their commitment to AED education and awareness. Seven years ago, they were commended for implementing AED education into classrooms.
"At that time, they were one of the first school boards in the state where they had included AED training in their curriculum for students, and that was huge," Brown said. "Since then, they've even gone to another level."
Since the inception of Alabama LifeStart roughly 12 years ago, every school in Alabama has now been equipped with an AED, and at least four student lives have been saved in the process.
"Each year, thousands of school-age children die from sudden cardiac arrest, and this can happen for a wide number of reasons," Brown said. "Sometimes, they may be hit by a baseball in the chest. Sometimes they may have a congenital heart defect that they didn't even know about, but it does happen. Sudden cardiac arrest will hit, they'll stop breathing, they'll lose consciousness and collapse."
Brown commended the work of the Walker County BOE and nurses at each school that have been dedicated to AED implementation and training.
"I'm not sure you are fully aware of all the amazing work they're doing," Brown said. "They are, without a doubt, top of the line as far as the state is concerned."
Guthrie added, "This shows the commitment to our students and the community and the importance to be a Heart Safe school system."
In addition to the certificate presented to the Walker County Board of Education, each school's nurse will also receive a certificate. Alabama LifeStart also donated five AED trainer units to Walker County Schools Thursday.