HeartSafe Community is a program designed to promote survival from sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. It is a general concept focused upon strengthening the “chain of survival” as described by the American Heart Association; it recognizes and stimulates efforts by individual communities to improve their system for preventing sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) from becoming irreversible death.
The Heart of America Metro Fire Chiefs Council elected to promote the HeartSafe Communities as a regional effort and with the support of the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC) brought the area hospitals and EMS agencies on board as well. Our goal is to give all Fire Departments, EMS agencies, and Hospital’s the tools they need to educate the citizens of our communities in the warning signs and symptoms of heart attacks, public access defibrillators usage, and most importantly hands-only CPR instruction. Saving one life is worth the effort.
In the basic HeartSafe model, a region (generally a US state, but county-based and international programs also exist) establishes a set of minimum criteria its communities must meet in order to achieve HeartSafe status. These should be goals that support the chain of survival, such as widespread CPR instruction, public access defibrillators, and aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders and area hospitals. Individual communities in each region which meet the established criteria—such as cities, towns, counties, even neighborhoods or campuses—can apply to their home office and become designated as a HeartSafe Community. Street signs proclaiming this status are usually posted at the edge of town. If a community does not meet minimum criteria, it can take steps to work toward compliance and eventually earn accreditation.
The first HeartSafe program began in Massachusetts in 2002. Programs now exist in all or parts of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, California, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Kentucky, and Vermont; they have also spread internationally to Ireland, New Zealand, and Taiwan, and are under development in Missouri, Tennessee, and Colorado. Typically, programs are managed at the state level through the Department of Public Health or a similar service, and individual communities in each state obtain designation through that central office. Under these various umbrellas, over 600 local HeartSafe communities now exist, providing a safety net for over 8,000,000 residents.
HeartSafe is a public health initiative to increase the chance of survival for those who experience sudden, out-of-hospital cardiac arrest or heart attack.
When the heart suddenly stops, survival depends upon immediate lifesaving interventions. HeartSafe aims to improve the odds of survival by training residents to:
If available, use an automated external defibrillator (AED).
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense.
Yet symptoms can often seem unclear at first and then slowly increase. The following are some signs that can mean a heart attack is happening.
• Chest discomfort or pressure
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach
• Shortness of breath, which may occur with or without chest discomfort
• Cold sweat, nausea/vomiting and lightheadedness
Warning signs for women may be different. Women
are more likely to experience:
If you or someone you’re with is experiencing any of these symptoms, call 911. Delay can be deadly.
Denial is common. Don’t accept “indigestion” as an excuse.
Stop a heart attack before it can occur. Visit your healthcare provider for a heart health assessment to determine if you are at risk. Take steps to improve your odds.