CPR is a lifesaving technique that’s useful in many emergencies, including a heart attack or near drowning, in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped. Photo by Stacy Fisher

Westwood High School students learn CPR

Westwood High School students in grades 9 through 12 assembled in the school’s gymnasium Jan. 30 for a hands-on CPR lesson as part of an education outreach program presented by Matt Falkowski, education coordinator and flight paramedic for SEMSA.

While students watched from the bleachers, Falkowski provided instruction using a CPR manikin, before having them practice with their own manikins that were spread across the gym floor.

The students were assisted by personnel from Peninsula Fire, CalFire, SEMSA, Westwood and Susanville fire fighting volunteers, along with members from the Plumas County Sheriff’s Office and Westwood Fire Chief Forest Duerksen.

Falkowski informed the students that every year upwards of 350,000 people experience cardiac arrest, and that CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) treatment must begin within the first four minutes, or brain damage or even death can occur.

He explained that CPR is a lifesaving technique that’s useful in many emergencies, including a heart attack or near drowning, in which someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped.

He said that when a student observes that someone is down on the ground and not breathing, the proper order of steps start with shaking the person vigorously and calling out to them to see if they are conscious, followed by asking a bystander to call 911 (or if no one else is around to call 911 yourself) and then administer CPR in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person who is in cardiac arrest.

This entails rapid compression of the chest using both hands with interlocking fingers to restore a heartbeat.

A series of downward thrusts with the palms of the hands should continue at a rate of 100-120 times per minute, Falkowski said.

For this demonstration, he told the students that they would skip the rescue-breathing step that would normally accompany the resuscitation efforts.

He suggested that everyone, regardless of age should consider learning CPR through a certified training program.

The students also heard from Melinda Duerksen, Westwood math and science teacher and fire explorer adviser for the Westwood Fire Department, at the end of the event about the opportunity to join the Fire Explorers program starting when they turn 14 and have completed eighth grade.

Any student that age or older who was interested could fill out an application with her in the main office or at the Westwood Fire Station.

A number of young people already participating in the Fire Explorers program were on hand to share with the assembly why they joined and what they got out of it.