Free CPR classes at Takoma Park fire station

Fire department volunteers reviewing their CPR technique last January. Photo courtesy TPVFD

BY SAM BORTNIKER

“From the moment someone’s heart stops beating that person’s chances of going home from the hospital decline by 10% every minute,” Lt. Mike Livingston said. Rather than wait for EMS to arrive, “the chances of a happy ending are so much greater if someone can start CPR right away.”

CPR is a life-saving technique, shorthand for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. When a person’s heart stops beating, CPR practitioners know how to pump it, keeping the brain and vital organs supplied with oxygen.

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A volunteer CPR refresher session at the Takoma Park fire station last winter. Photo by Adam Bearne, courtesy TPVFD.

With a generous $1500 contribution from the Takoma Foundation and in partnership with Takoma Park CPR, the Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department was able to train six new instructors and will provide free community CPR and First Aid courses beginning April 19, 2014. Each new instructor is contracted to teach eight free CPR and First Aid classes over the next four years.

“It’s obvious to me that people want to be trained in CPR and First Aid,” Firefighter Adam Bearne, a newly trained instructor, said. “It seems like every time I’m there, I end up taking a call from someone looking for it. Before I’ve had to refer them elsewhere, so it’s really cool that we can invite them to their local firehouse now instead.”

The city fire department has not offered regular CPR or First Aid classes to the community in years; after receiving weekly requests, Livingston drafted a proposal on behalf of the department asking the Takoma Foundation for funding to help cover the cost of the materials and accreditation fees associated with the instructor training.

In addition, Takoma Park, CPR, an American Safety and Health Institute Training Center founded by Livingston and his wife, Heather Livingston, donated the instructor training to the fire department.

“Trained individuals can make a huge difference – literally the difference between life and death – so even if the demand didn’t already exist, we’d try to create it,” Livingston said.

Instructor training program

Lt. Livingston, who is an EMS coordinator and ASHI certified instructor trainer, volunteered his time and taught the instructor program. There are no significant differences in terms of the content of the Red Cross, American Heart Association or ASHI courses. ASHI, however, allows for a different teaching method giving the instructor more freedom to adapt to the audience’s needs and a lower cost for training materials.

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Some of the CPR instructors shortly after earning their certificates. From left to right: EMT Todd Leff, class instructor Lt Mike Livingston, FF Adam Bearne, EMT Leslie de Leon and EMT Sophia Lallinger. Photo courtesy TPVFD.

Richard Willey, Tom Horne, James Jarboe, Jorge Alfaro and Livingston are all qualified CPR instructors trained by the county.

“It’s a demanding course, with a lot of theory and practice to cover just to become an adjunct instructor and start gaining experience,” Livingston said. The class of six was able to get through the ASHI curriculum in less than 24 hours.

The new instructors, firefighters Adam Bearne, Jerry Sanford and Ivie Higgins and emergency medical technicians Sophia Lallinger, Leslie DeLeon and Todd Leff completed their instructor training on March 26, 2014. They are eligible to teach CPR, automated external defibrillators and basic first aid.

“The training was great!” Bearne, who’s been volunteering since he moved from Scotland about three years ago, said. “It also helped that I’ve been on the other side of it, as a student in a CPR class, so I knew already what I liked and didn’t like from an instructor.” Bearne mentioned it also helped that they knew Livingston well from volunteering together.

Free community classes

Takoma Park residents will be given priority to the free classes. There can be up to 30 people in each class, which is why it’s important for people to RSVP to cpr@tpvfd.org.

“CPR training empowers you to perform the functions of a person’s heart when it’s not beating,” Livingston said. The course will cover CPR and choking treatment for adults, children and infants.

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A first aid review at the fire station. Photo by Tina Willey, courtesy TPVFD

The CPR class is 90 minutes to two hours, depending on class size. Basic First Aid is two and a half hours. Sometimes the TPVFD will offer the two classes together as a four-hour package.

“Basic First Aid covers keeping yourself safe while rendering aid and how to recognize medical emergencies – when to call 911 and what to do until we get there. Topics include: asthma, allergic reactions, diabetic emergencies, stroke, poisoning, illnesses related to heat and cold and dehydration, and all kinds of injuries,” Livingston said.

The classes are “skills only” training; the goal is to teach these skills to as many people within the Takoma Park community as possible. After completing the CPR or basic first aid course, or both, students do not receive a formal certification. The exams and cards add to the length and price of the courses and are not for employment purposes.

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The Takoma Park fire station, 7201 Carroll Avenue. Photo courtesy TPVFD

“It’s great that we can offer the classes for free, because it gives people no excuse not to take a few hours to come and learn! In most cases, if someone is having a heart attack, it will be a family member or a bystander who gets to the victim before we do. If they can perform good CPR, it gives us a much better chance for our treatments to work when we get there. Having more people who know these vital skills ultimately makes us all safer,” Bearne said.

The classes will be held at the Mark McKenzie Memorial Training Center at Station 2, 7201 Carroll Ave., and is entered from the rear-parking garage at the fire station.

In addition, the Livingston’s Takoma Park CPR Training Center does offer certifying classes to the general public while the TPVFD only offers basic skills courses to the general public and certifying classes to fire/EMS personnel and to groups of government or nonprofit employees in or near Takoma Park.

As of this posting, there are spaces still available in all the upcoming classes.

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About the Author

Samantha Bortniker
Samantha Bortniker is a multimedia journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She loves creative writing and contributes to several campus publications and blogs.