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Photo courtesy of Eddington Fire Department

Students in one of Eddington’s free first aid and CPR class practice on infant manikins. The infant manikins here, as well as the adult manikins (in blue) are what the EFD is working to raise money to purchase. The Eddington Fire Department offers free CPR and first-air courses twice yearly, but is limited to 25 students and uses borrowed equipment. The department plans to purchase 25 adult CPR manikins, 25 infant CPR manikins, an AED trainer, and related supplies, and be able to offer more classes.

For about five years, the Eddington Fire Department has provided CPR and first-aid classes. Each spring and fall, the department has taken 25 students per class and spent a Saturday teaching them how to help those in medical distress — all absolutely free. The program launched through the efforts of department members John Bagley and Dawn Drew. Their efforts have resulted in a cornerstone program that has been well-received in the community and involves many department members.

But the department doesn’t own the training equipment, so it borrows it from Atlantic Partners EMS in Bangor. That’s a major benefit, says Lt. Craig Russell, but it does come with challenges. APEMS provides support to EMS services in nine counties, so the equipment’s availability is limited.

The classes have been very well received, with many repeat customers as students return to recertify. But those twice-yearly classes fill up every time.

“The past three classes, we’ve had to turn people away,” said Russell. “We could do a lot more if we had our own equipment.”

So recently the department launched a $4,000 fund-raiser called “Have a Heart to Save a Heart.” That money will purchase 25 adult CPR manikins, 25 infant CPR manikins, and related supplies. Unlike the full-bodied Resusci Annie dolls of old, training manikins don’t need to be life-sized. The adult manikins include a head and chest plate, with inflatable lungs and lifelike chest-compression response.

“That would give us enough to host our own classes and continue to be free to the public,” said Russell. “If everybody can have their own equipment, then it just makes the class go a lot easier and a lot smoother — and gives people a lot more practice.”

The money raised will also purchase an AED trainer. An AED, or Automated External Defibrillator, is a device that, when hooked up to a person whose is experiencing tachycardia or arrhythmia, diagnoses the condition and shocks the heart back to normal rhythm — which can be life-saving. While the trainer won’t work as a real AED, it offers an inexpensive way to train students.

The equipment will enable Eddington to schedule classes whenever there are enough interested students, without working around the availability of borrowed equipment. This can offer benefits outside Eddington, as the classes have not been limited to Eddington residents. And providing classes to schools, community groups, and even businesses may be on the horizon. The department would likely seek modest group fees to cover instructor time and the cost of $2 per for each CPR-certification card — a cost the department currently absorbs.

“We’d like to be able to host more classes to accommodate anybody that wants to come and do it,” Russell said. “[Owning our own equipment] would just allow us a lot more availability to be able to outreach a little bit more than we are.”

The current loaner, APEMS, handles three of Maine’s six EMS regions, including Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock, Washington, Somerset, Kennebec, Lincoln, Waldo, and Knox Counties. The nonprofit services 20 hospitals, 148 emergency services, and about 2,500 licensed personnel — about 70 percent of whom are volunteers. It loans equipment to its members primarily for training and recertification of EMS personnel. Most volunteer departments don’t do extensive public training but, according to APEMS Executive Director Rick Petrie, Eddington is a bit more aggressive with its community outreach.

“It’s fantastic,” said Petrie of the fundraiser. “If we can get citizens trained in CPR and are willing to do CPR when it’s necessary, and early access to AEDs, we can have a decisive impact on survivability — which, historically, has been very poor [for], out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.”

Petrie said research shows that there are two key things for a person who suffers a cardiac incident: having someone recognize it and begin CPR early, and cardiac defibrillation.

“Those two things have the single biggest impact in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest,” said Petrie. “Any community outreach program that trains people to do CPR is very effective and very valuable.”

Eddington’s 25-person fire department — mostly volunteer — has several CPR- and first-aid-certified instructors who make the free classes possible. This is key, says Russell, because it’s impossible to put a value on having many citizens certified in these life-saving techniques.

“We think it’s an important piece to have in the community,” Russell said. “By the time somebody dials 911 and we get there, it could potentially be too late. Having somebody… doing compressions within minutes of [cardiac arrest] that’s when the success is going to happen the most often.”

There is currently there’s a donation board in the Eddington Town Office. For more information about the program, and how to get involved in future classes, email or call (207) 843-5251.

The next free community CPR class is this Saturday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The class is at the Eddington Fire Department. Donations are greatly appreciated. Lunch is available for a donation.