Knowing the drill if cardiac arrest happens

Staff and students in schools across Michigan this week will have a different kind of drill, one that doesn’t focus on protecting themselves but on saving someone else if the need arises — and hopefully it never does.

With February being American Heart Month, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has encouraged schools to participate in Michigan Schools CPR/Automated External Defibrillator Drill Week.

Such drills can help schools prepare to recognize sudden cardiac arrest and provide immediate intervention, “which is critical for survival,” according to the MDHHS.

Using CPR within 1 minute and an automated external defibrillator within 3 to 5 minutes of a victim’s collapse is crucial for increasing the chance of survival, the American Heart Association advises.

With about 1 in 5 Michiganders being in a school building each day, it raises the odds that a cardiac incident could occur on site at some point.

“Cardiac arrest is often an unexpected event and is especially frightening when a young person is involved,” said Dr. Eden Wells, MDHHS chief medical executive. “Early recognition and immediate intervention is critical for survival, and our hope is that all Michigan schools will know how to respond when someone — whether a student or an adult — has a cardiac arrest. We support the idea of designating drill weeks throughout the year for this purpose.”

Since July 2014, state law has required Michigan schools to have a written cardiac emergency response plan. In December 2016, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law legislation that requires CPR/automated external defibrillation instruction no later than the 2017-2018 school year for students enrolled in grades seven to 12.

This past weekend, The Daily News highlighted how several area school districts already had CPR and AED training in place.

The American Heart Association recommends becoming familiar with the five steps of the “Chain of Survival:”

— Early recognition of a cardiac arrest and calling 9-1-1.

— Rapid bystander response with hands-only CPR, which is done without mouth-to-mouth breathing. It is recommended for use by people who see a teen or adult suddenly collapse in an “out of hospital” setting. It consists of two easy steps: calling 9-1-1 and pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest.

— Use of an automated external defibrillator.

— Advanced life support.

— Post-cardiac care.

Schools had the CPR/AED drills in November but are encouraged to practice throughout the school year.

“The important thing is that students and staff have a chance to practice at least once a year so they know what to do in the event of a real emergency,” Wells said. “Publicizing the drill weeks statewide helps remind everyone to make sure it gets on the calendar.”

To promote such training, MDHHS — along with the Michigan Department of Education, AHA and Michigan Alliance to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death of the Young — developed the MI HEARTSafe School Program in 2015. Designation as a MI HEARTSafe School requires a CPR/defibrillator drill. To date, 268 schools have been recognized as MI HEARTSafe.

For additional details and application forms for the MI HEARTSafe Schools program, go to For more information about sudden cardiac arrest prevention in Michigan, go to