LA PORTE – When a person suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, their chances of survival begin at 10%. If CPR is administered quickly, that person’s chances of survival increase to 30%. When CPR is coupled with the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED), the chances of survival rise to 50%. Those statistics underline why early bystander intervention is critical to saving lives.

Immediate intervention by a bystander is just one of many recommendations set forth by the Citizen CPR Foundation to improve outcomes to sudden cardiac arrest emergencies. Through a specific set of training, preparation, and response protocols, Citizen CPR Foundation’s HEARTSafe Community program supports the cardiac arrest “chain of survival” and encourages communities to put that chain of survival into action. This includes widespread CPR instruction; public access AEDs; and aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders and area hospitals.

In 2023, following years of committed work toward improving heart health in the community, Health Foundation of La Porte (HFL) identified the HEARTSafe Community designation as a strategy to help the City of La Porte community continue to improve the survival rates of cardiac arrest victims. This designation is given to communities that recognize that improving cardiac arrest survival is a community-wide effort, and one that requires commitment. From the quick action by trained bystanders to a coordinated response system by first responder agencies, teamwork is required to increase the likelihood of survival. The HEARTSafe Community program is set on the principle that lives can be saved by being prepared with prevention, early access to care, early CPR, early defibrillation, and early advanced care.

Communities that strive to become “heart safe” must meet the criteria established by the Citizen CPR Foundation. Once the designation is received, the community receives signage and official recognition as a HEARTSafe Community, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to citizen health and safety. The designation is not the end goal but rather an achievement along the way.

HFL invited a team of partners to work on the HEARTSafe Community application for the City of La Porte. The team, led by HFL, is comprised of City of La Porte Fire Department (lead organization), La Porte County E-911, La Porte County EMS, La Porte County Fire Chief Association, Northwest Health – La Porte, Play for Jake Foundation, and former HFL Board Member Jane Nelson.

By bringing these dedicated partners and their expertise to the table, HFL led the collection of data and information in support of the 13 criteria required for the HEARTSafe Community designation. In the process HFL and the team developed additional protocols and identified state-of-the-art tools to improve sudden cardiac arrest outcomes.

Chief Andy Snyder, City of La Porte Fire Department, expressed gratitude for serving as the lead organization for the HEARTSafe Community team, saying, “I am extremely excited for the City of La Porte to be considered for this designation. It is a chance to recognize many of the great things this amazing community and our department are doing to improve heart health and the chances of survival in the event of a cardiac emergency. Through the efforts of HFL and the community we are making a real difference should the unthinkable happen.”

Maria Fruth, President & CEO of HFL, added, “We are thrilled about this next step in improving outcomes for people experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. The City of La Porte becoming a HEARTSafe Community builds on all of the work we have been doing at HFL, which started with the La Porte Hospital Foundation several years ago. Through our When Seconds Count: AED Initiative, HFL has awarded 208 AEDs to nonprofits, schools, and local government agencies, and we have awarded grants to the City of La Porte Fire Department to assist them to provide free CPR classes to the community. In total, HFL has invested $484,889 in AED and CPR-related grants since 2017, and we are looking forward to this next step in our journey.”

Application Submitted; What’s Next?

On January 23, 2024, HFL submitted the HEARTSafe Community application on behalf of the City of La Porte. HFL anticipates hearing back soon with qualification and next steps. Beyond the designation, the HEARTSafe Community team for the City of La Porte will continue their work.

Mayor Tom Dermody and Chief Snyder have set a goal to train all City of La Porte employees in CPR who are not already trained. Similarly, Randy Novak, President of the La Porte County Fire Chief Association and County Council President, is working with the county and EMS to train all county employees.

“The submitted application exceeded the requirement that 15% of the City of La Porte’s population is trained in CPR, which for the City of La Porte would be 3,438 people. For our application, we evidenced over 22% of our city’s population is trained in CPR, which is more than 5,000 community members!” shared Snyder. “We are looking forward to surpassing the year 2 goal of training an additional 15% of the population, starting with City employees and then branching out from there.”

Additionally, the City of La Porte HEARTSafe Community team plans to encourage other organizations within the city to develop cardiac emergency response plans; locate additional AEDs in key public places; and educate the community on the risk of sudden cardiac arrest, prevention, and how to respond in an emergency.

“A particularly exciting next step for the HEARTSafe Community journey is the state-of-the-art tool, PulsePoint,” stated Fruth. “Implementing PulsePoint through E-911 will build on the work of the AED Collective, and particularly the work of La Porte County EMS, to create and maintain the map of registered AEDs in the community. PulsePoint will increase response time to people experiencing a cardiac emergency. HFL will be funding the implementation of PulsePoint and the subscription for the first year.”

PulsePoint is a software program and mobile app that alerts first responders and other CPR/AED-trained individuals to a person nearby experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. By implementing this software, first responders can track and more quickly respond to these emergencies, as the software includes a map of registered AED locations and nearby individuals trained in CPR and AED use. CPR/AED-trained citizens who subscribe to the app can be alerted via their smart phones to cardiac arrests occurring in public. This could increase the likelihood of a trained bystander responding to a cardiac emergency quickly, improving the survival rate for the person suffering the arrest. This program also helps communities build and maintain the AED map that is accessible to emergency dispatchers and responders.

Becoming a HEARTSafe Community will be a large source of pride for the City of La Porte and all of the HEARTSafe Community team partners. Education, prevention, and collaboration are key to saving lives, and the City of La Porte is poised to celebrate its commitment to being HEARTSafe.

Currently, there are more than 600 HEARTSafe communities throughout the United States, none of which are in Indiana.