EDMONDS — Principals, coaches and about 120 staffers in the Edmonds School District went back to the classroom this week, to learn their ACTs.
A new crash course boils down a standard first aid lesson to a one-hour summary — quick, easy, memorable keys that could be the difference between life and death.
The curriculum was designed by staff at South County Fire, for the modern layperson.
“Not a lot of people want to come in for eight hours on a Saturday for a first aid class,” said Shaughn Maxwell, deputy chief of emergency medical services. “So how much of what we teach in eight hours is going to save someone’s life, in those first five minutes before the firefighters get there?”
This Cliff’s Notes version gives the bare essentials.
Just three things.
A is for antidote, a grim reflection of the reality that overdoses are now a leading killer of people under 50. Paramedics show how to spray naloxone into the nose of a mannequin head, to reverse an overdose on opioids.
C is for CPR, a centerpiece of any first aid course.
T is for tourniquet, a tool that can stop bleeding in accidents, stabbings and shootings.
About 250,000 people are served by South County Fire, in the general area of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mill Creek. Paramedics found they were training maybe 20 people per week in their full-on first aid classes, Maxwell said. If you have a cardiac arrest, and you’re counting on a passerby to save your life, those numbers don’t sound too comforting.
Maxwell hopes the simplified program can train 6,000 people a year.
The first mass lesson was held Friday in the Great Hall at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Small groups split into stations, rotating every 15 minutes. Men in khakis and striped dress shirts knelt in the south end of the hall, pumping chests of pink plastic dummies, to the beat of the Bee Gees anthem “Staying Alive.” Time was counted by South County Fire Capt. Andre Yoakum, in one of several semi-circles of school administrators. They had to pump for two minutes before they could call in a reliever.
“This should be physically grueling,” Yoakum said. “It’s kind of like doing a workout. It’s kind of like having to climb that mountain, if you focus your mind on the physicality of doing this job — one minute! — it’s going to help distract your mind and keep you doing 120 beats per minute.”
Posters explain the steps. Call 911; send someone to get an AED; start compressions; hook up the AED, follow instructions and keep going until help shows up.
In a cardiac arrest, the odds of survival go down 7 to 10 percent with each minute that passes without CPR, according to the American Heart Association.
“This is a tunnel vision job,” Yoakum said. “You don’t need to be thinking about anything distracting, other than getting other people in here to help you.”
Once the hands-on training is over, there’s time for questions — for example, how do we know when we’re supposed to give CPR? (Answer: If the patient is not breathing and not responding.)
Many emergencies of today are not the emergencies of, say, 1918.
“The way we do first aid now is really the same way we’ve done it for 100 years,” Maxwell said. “But we know our world has changed significantly in the past 100 years.”
We have an opioid epidemic.
We have a mass shooting epidemic.
We die from cardiac arrest, diabetes and obesity-related health problems.
So the class aims to battle the public health crises of the day. And as far as Maxwell can tell, no one else is doing a class like this in the country. He dreams of every local high school freshman going through the training, and eventually seeing the program go nationwide.
For now, he’s seeking grants to better fund it.
Demand has been far too high for South County staff to handle. In a way, he said, that’s a good problem to have.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.