Charleston Co. first responders update CPR skills in 'high-performance' training

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County cardiac arrest patients have a higher percentage of survival compared to the national average, according to EMS officials.

Charleston County EMS Division Chief Carl Fehr said roughly 38% of county patients survive, versus the 34% nationally.

Tuesday, firefighters and EMS personnel throughout Charleston County were at the North Charleston Coliseum taking part in "high-performance" CPR training, also called 'pit crew' CPR.

"The idea is to maximize every move they make, trying to minimize any interruptions and compressions," said Charleston County Medical Director David French. "Doing everything to a very finely tuned level, again, with a goal of improving our success rates for cardiac arrest resuscitation."

For the last three weeks first responders worked with CPR dummies, ventilators, and AED devices complete with technology that allows them to visually see what they are doing on a graph.

"It shows whether they are doing the appropriate rate and depth of compression, if they're relaxing during pauses to try and refill the heart," French said. "They're also minimizing interruptions in their CPR performance, whether it's changing who is doing CPR compressions, preparing for defibrillation, analyzing heart rhythms, doing other more advanced interventions. Everything they do is choreographed to minimize the interruptions in compressions."

While first responders are constantly updating their skills and training, officials urge the community to look into CPR courses.

"When there's CPR given by bystanders prior to first responders getting on the scene the actual survival rate in Charleston County goes up to around 41%," Fehr said. "So obviously that a pretty significant jump."

However, Fehr added only about 33% of the time is CPR given by a bystander in Charleston County before responders arrive, whereas nationally is around 40%.

Emergency officials also ask the public to know where Automated External Defibrillator (AED) devices are in the case of an emergency.

Like CPR, knowing how to use an AED can make the difference in survival rates.

"Nationally only about 11% of cardiac arrests have a bystander [using the] AED," Fehr said. "In Charleston County that drops down to about 8.5%."

This is the first year Charleston County administered this kind of high-performance training to 700 first responders.

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