The latest effort to reduce Sonoma County deaths from cardiac arrest comes from a Petaluma company that recently pledged $100,000 to purchase automated external defibrillators for North Bay businesses.
Stacy Gibbons, executive director of American Heart Association North Bay, called the move by Arrow Benefits Group “unprecedented.”
Arrow Benefits Group’s first foray into reducing cardiac arrest deaths was in late 2014, when the company asked the Petaluma Health Care District to teach its employees hands-only CPR.
The 6-year-long CPR education program, which mostly exists on middle school campuses, began with the Sonoma County branch of American Medical Response.
Named “Save Lives Sonoma,” the idea was to educate as many people — specifically seventh-graders — in performing hands-only CPR, and to place as many AEDs on school campuses as possible.
Since the program began, more than 4,000 students across Sonoma County have been trained.
The Petaluma Health Care District took up the task in the southern portion of the county, providing training to schools and businesses requesting it. Three Sonoma County residents have used that knowledge to save lives.
After Arrow Benefits Group employees went through CPR training themselves, the company started the Arrow Wellness Initiative, which offers free CPR and first-aid training to its more than 900 business clients across the North Bay.
Providing $100,000 for its clients to purchase AEDs is an extension of that effort, said principal partner Andrew McNeil. The group plans to pay for half of every AED, significantly cutting the cost for businesses wishing to purchase the $1,800 devices.
“We decided about a month ago that this was the direction we wanted to go,” he said. “We really wanted to focus on it from a business standpoint. ... Cardiac arrest is the No. 1 killer in a place of business. The fire department takes about four or five minutes to reach you, so it’s great to have (an AED) on-site.”
Cardiac arrests claim 350,000 lives a year, with 10,000 of those happening in the workplace. According to the American Heart Association, less than 10 percent of victims survive.
But if CPR and AEDs are used within five minutes of collapse, survival rates can increase by 70 percent.
June 1 to 7 was CPR week, an opportunity the AHA took to provide free hands-only CPR training for employees at Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center.
The effort followed REACH Air Medical Services’ donation of 400 infant CPR kits to parents of premature newborns at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Petaluma Valley and Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, said the AHA’s Gibbons.
“I think Sonoma County is really making a difference,” she said.