There is no good time for a heart attack but if one strikes, Farmington is a good place for it. The state Department of Public Health and American Heart Association recently announced that Farmington has been approved for renewal as a HEARTSafe Community.
The three-year designation recognizes the town’s commitment to cardiac response and confirms that it meets certain standards for cardiac care, including how many people in town are trained to perform CPR, how many external defibrillators are in town and how quickly a trained responder is on scene with an AED after a person dials 911.
Farmington first applied for the designation three years ago at the prompting of firefighters and was recognized as a HEARTSafe Community.
The town more than met the requirements.
“We have a number of firefighters that are CPR instructors and while the classes are not really offered by the town, if a business calls and says they want to learn CPR, I connect them to instructors and once or twice a year we host as training at the fire department at minimal cost,” explained Mary-Ellen Harper, director of Fire and Rescue Services for Farmington.
More CPR instructors equals more citizens qualified to perform CPR and more lives saved. It has not been uncommon in the past few years for bystanders to begin CPR on a person who is having a cardiac episode.
“For a community our size, we had to show at least 50 citizens have been trained,” Harper said. “With our 21 active CPR instructors alone we had taught more than 300 people. Our instructors live, breathe, eat CPR. We know it works and it’s one of the things we’re happy to talk about. We love to do it.”
That’s partially because Farmington has had such tremendous success in using the "Chain of Survival" which includes early 9-1-1 access, CPR, defibrillation, and advanced care, to save lives.
Harper had not yet compiled the 2012 numbers, but in 2011 firefighters responded to 10 incidents of cardiac arrest during which CPR was provided on the scene. The average response time – from when a 911 call was placed until an emergency responder was on scene providing CPR – was less than 4 minutes.
That window is key, Harper said. It’s most important to get a defibrillator to the scene and shock the heart back into a normal rhythm, she said, but until then, CPR buys time and keeps oxygen flowing to the body.
“Within 7 minutes oxygen deprivation sets in and begins to cause longterm injuries. It makes the difference between someone getting up and going back to the life they had or being in a diminished state,” she said.
So the availability of AEDs throughout town is another factor in qualifying for the HEARTSafe Community designation.
“We needed at least 10 AEDs [for a town Farmington’s size] and we showed documentation of 52,” she said.
And because there is no requirement to call the town and register the devices, there may be more. Many gyms, doctor’s officers, schools and the Town Hall have AEDs, as do all of the town’s police and fire vehicles.
The town also benefits from its close proximity to a hospital - UConn Health Center with the renowned Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center. The center works in partnership with Farmington emergency responders and Harper credits the doctors there with lifesaving outcomes.
"One of the reasons Farmington is so lucky is we have such a quick time to get to the hospital. We get them there but truly the hospital makes the difference whether someone walks out of the hospital and goes home or not."
Harper said that if anyone is interested in learning CPR and becoming part of the chain of survival, he should call her at (860) 675-2322.