Earning State’s HEARTSafe Designation Can Be Key to Saving Lives; UConn Is Most Recent Participant, Some Municipalities Remain Absent

The University of Connecticut was recently named a “HEARTSafe Campus” – the first institution of higher education in the state of Connecticut to earn the designation.

The “HEARTSafe” program, which is coordinated by the Connecticut Department of Public Health and its Office of Emergency Medical Services, in collaboration with the American Heart Association, recognizes communities, workplaces, and campuses that improve the chances for individuals to survive a sudden cardiac arrest.

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The number of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) and the amount of community members trained in CPR are key factors in determining the “HEARTSafe” designation.  The program has recognized workplaces and communities in recent years; the campus designation was added recently. 

The University of New Haven (UNH), for example, earned a HEARTSafe Workplace designation in 2017. As part of the program, the university installed 28  defibrillators on the West Haven  campus as well as machines on the Orange, Lyme and Sawmill campuses, and has trained more than 140 employees – well above the 10 percent required to achieve the DPH HeartSafe designation  — to respond when someone has symptoms of a heart attack. The University offers CPR training for both employees and students every other month throughout the year.

At UConn, there is now an AED within a three-minute round-trip walk from any spot on the Storrs and regional campuses, and at UConn Law. AEDs can be located by downloading and using an app called PulsePoint AED.  A “HEARTSafe Campus” road sign was unveiled at the ceremony, and several of these are to be displayed at each of the campuses.

“We take public safety and public service very seriously here at UConn,” said Hans Rhynhart, assistant vice president of public safety and chief of police.  The naming of UConn as a “HEARTSafe Campus” was the conclusion of a dedicated and combined effort of the Office of Public Safety, which includes the school’s fire and police departments, and the student organization “UConn Rescue,” which brings together those interested in emergency medical service training, according to published reports.

The president of UConn Rescue, Justin Pedneault ’19 (NUR), pursued this cause passionately on campus, together with firefighter Benjamin Roper. Pedneault is a Manchester native, and joined a volunteer ambulance association in high school.  The two walked every floor of every UConn building in Storrs, Hartford, Stamford, Avery Point, Waterbury, and at the Law School to ensure that there would be an AED close enough to become “HEARTSafe” according to UConn officials.

There are now about 135 new AEDS on the UConn campuses, including about 90 in Storrs. There are also 270 new medical supply kits, which include a tourniquet, wound dressing, and shears to stop bleeding during an emergency.

The HEARTSafe Designation is a three-year designation. As such, the list is always in flux. Each month, the up-to-date list is sent to the Connecticut EMS Council and is posted on their web page.  Communities are listed within the state’s five EMS regions, along with their current HEARTSafe status.  

The site includes expiration dates for each municipality’s designation.  For example, there are 20 communities with designations that expired between 2015 and 2018 that have apparently not received a renewal.  Others have expired in the first few months of this year.  Approximately 40 towns and cities have never applied, according to the published records, including New Haven, Rocky Hill, Windsor Locks, New London, Groton, Derby, East Granby, and Watertown.

According to officials, more than 100 of the 169 Connecticut municipalities in Connecticut are, or hve been, designated HEARTSafe Communities, and 11 Connecticut businesses are currently designated HEARTSafe Workplaces. 

Bridgeport, the state’s most populous city, was the 118th municipality in Connecticut to carry the HEARTSafe Community designation when it was received back in 2016. Greenwich, which was the first municipality to earn the designation initially in 2006, was most recently renewed last year. 

Designated HEARTSafe Workplaces in Connecticut include the following:  ESPN Inc., CREC Public Safety Academy, TTM Technologies Inc., Hexacomb Corp., UTC (Windsor Locks), Stratford EMS, Ethos Energy, Ethos Energy Component Repair and the American Heart Association’s Wallingford office.  Among public agencies, workplaces include the State of CT Dept. of Public Health and the Town of South Windsor.  In addition to UConn and UNH, there are eight campuses that have earned the designation.  The most recent is Central Connecticut State University.

The EMS site is used because it provides high visibility among EMS providers, who are often the individuals who complete the HEARTSafe applications. Emails are also sent out by the Department to all expired communities as well as those that have never applied, in an effort to encourage them to either renew or apply for an initial designation, according to officials.

The program is important, explained Ronald Quagliani, associate vice president for public safety and administrative services at UNH, because each year more than 250,000 Americans die from sudden cardiac arrest. The key to survival is timely initiation of a “chain of survival,” including use of an AED.  The American Heart Association notes that at least 20,000 lives could be saved annually by prompt use of AEDs.