Big-city emergency medical services strive to arrive on scene in under eight minutes. Professionally staffed and well-equipped EMS organizations can usually achieve this goal with at least 90 percent of their calls. However, in rural areas like Norwood, it’s rare for an ambulance to arrive to a life-threatening emergency situation within that eight-minute survival window. That’s why the Norwood Fire Protection District (NFPD) is striving to hold the department to a different set of standards inspired by the American Heart Association (AHA). 

Almost half a million people die from cardiac arrest in the U.S. every year. The AHA thinks it can get that number down to zero.

That can be done through accelerating EMS response times and increasing public access to AEDs — a device used to shock someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. But, the main way to achieve the goal is to double bystander response rates. This means having members of the public trained in basic lifesaving skills, especially the most effective technique that works against heart attacks: CPR. 

CPR training and certification are the keys to achieving this community capability, and the AHA wants to get 20 million Americans each year qualified to save a life with CPR. Getting this skill into the hands of more people spread out across the sparsely populated Norwood Fire Protection District can make a real difference.

Now, the NFPD is making this AHA-certified class accessible for anyone, starting with a new monthly program conducted by NFPD’s own emergency response expert and chief paramedic Matt Mogg. 

The class is open to the public, ages 14 and older. It’s a four-hour CPR certification class, happening on the third Friday of every month, though with the holiday season in full-swing the community may want to begin in January with the new year. Classes are held at the Norwood Fire Station, located at 1605 Summit St. Cost is $55 per person.

Norwood paramedics and EMTs have far more “street” experience than most programs and departments. Between Chief John Bockrath and Mogg, there are decades of classroom instruction time and hundreds of real-life CPR incidents under their belts. And, Norwood Fire and EMS has been conducting CPR certification classes over the last five years and is now formalizing the program with this ongoing schedule. 

“We’ve been conducting CPR, AED, first-aid certifications and other trainings by request, and have certified almost 500 people in CPR over the years,” said Bockrath. “By sharing our knowledge and building skills with private citizens, school districts, law enforcement officers, Forest Service, BLM and UMC clinic staffs, we’ve significantly improved life safety across San Miguel and Montrose Counties.”

In addition to the continuing CPR program, Bockrath is applying for grants for more AEDs to build out the already installed base of 25 devices that are placed around the district for public access, and to be carried with the county’s road and bridge crews, deputy sheriffs, town marshals, and local hunting outfitters.

Bockrath has said perhaps not all cardiac deaths on Wright’s Mesa are preventable, and perhaps Norwood can’t always get top-level care on the scene within eight minutes. But, the community can make a difference with enough responsible citizens committed to trying to save lives by learning to perform CPR. 

“That’s why the AHA wants to turn bystanders into ‘try-standers,’” NFPD representatives said. 

For more information on the ongoing CPR class, the community may visit https://norwoodfiredistrict.org/ or call 970-327-4800.