Albany firefighters and paramedics work hard, but they can't be everywhere. Someday, someone may suffer cardiac arrest with only an eighth-grader nearby.
If that happens, the Albany Fire Department — backed by the Albany Public Safety Foundation — wants to make sure those eighth-graders are ready, along with every member of their families.
Firefighters and paramedics are spending one full day at each of Albany's middle schools this month to train some 700 eighth-graders on basic CPR and defibrillator use.
The plan is to send home information and videos with the students and have them train at least three other people in their circle of family and friends. Students who bring back a paper signing off on their work receive a gift card.
Next year, the plan is to come back and train the next class of eighth-graders.
"It's really important that we have lots of trained people out there who can do CPR," Tom Henke, the CPR training lieutenant for Albany Fire, told the first group of students Thursday morning at Timber Ridge School.
Eighth-graders are the perfect place to start, he told the group. "You are all big enough, strong enough and smart enough to do CPR."
The eighth-grade effort is the brainchild of Fire Chief John Bradner, but the equipment and overtime for the personnel was paid for by the Albany Public Safety Foundation, a relatively new organization created to support local first responder agencies.
Steve Mills is the foundation's executive director. He volunteered five years for the Benton County Sheriff's Office while his son, Kevin, was a deputy there, and knew the sheriff's office had its own foundation.
When Mills moved to Albany, he began volunteering for the Albany Police Department. During a citizens academy, he asked whether the department might want to start a foundation and learned hired employees couldn't take that step.
"So," he said, "I started it."
That was in November 2016. By the following spring Mills had a nine-member board and a mission statement: "To positively impact the public safety of our community."
The foundation centers its efforts on three areas: health, safety and children.
The CPR training is part of the foundation's health initiative. The group is also working to install automatic external defibrillators in each Albany patrol car, because officers often arrive on a scene before a paramedic; and AEDs in various other points around town so they're easily accessible when needed.
Training students in CPR also satisfies Senate Bill 79, passed in 2015, which requires school districts to provide that instruction.
"It just makes sense to me," Mills said. "If you can train more people in the community with CPR, it benefits everyone."
On Thursday, eighth-graders in Dev Brazel's science classes practiced chest compressions on legless mannequins, following the Rule of Two: two hands, pressing down two inches, two compressions per second.
Any faster than two compressions per second and the chest doesn't rise back up far enough for an effective push, Henke told the students. "Any slower than that, we're not pumping blood to the body fast enough."
Deputy Fire Marshal Jon Mang, who also does training for Samaritan Health Services, showed students how to tape AED patches on their mannequins. Department spokeswoman Sandy Roberts explained the use of Pulse Point, a mobile app that lets people know where an emergency is occurring.
"You can tell the app, 'I know CPR,' and your app is going to notify you if someone goes into cardiac arrest near you, and you can go into action," she told the students.
The firefighter training doesn't count as full certification, department personnel said, but added that some knowledge is better than none.
The average survival rate for a victim of cardiac arrest is 25 percent, Mang said. "With improved outreach and programs like this, we can make an impact on that number."
Students in Brazel's class said they were glad to be a part of the training, although they were surprised how much effort it took.
"This is hard," panted Mercades Gabell, 14, after a round of compressions.
"That was maybe, like, 15 seconds," Firefighter/Paramedic Clifton Booher replied.
Preslie Keyser, 13, said she was surprised CPR could break ribs, and Tori Teem, 13, was surprised you have to push down a full two inches.
The students agreed, however, that the effort, both to learn and to physically practice, was worth it.
Said Rafael Ybarra, 13: "You could save somebody's life."