Heart Safe School training builds lifesaving knowledge at LPS

No one knows if Fredstrom Elementary School staff members will need to use the site’s automated external defibrillator (AED) in the future.
A recent training session ensured they will have the expertise to save someone’s life if that emergency ever arises.
Fredstrom became one of the latest Lincoln Public Schools sites certified in Project ADAM’s Heart Safe School Program. Project ADAM (Automated Defibrillators in Adam’s Memory) is a nationwide campaign to increase accessibility to AED devices.
LPS Health Services Coordinator Megan Lytle and Fredstrom Principal Cheryl Richter supervised the training session. They watched as Priscilla Petsch, a longtime school nurse at Fredstrom, and Kenny Cope, a physical education teacher with 34 years of experience, practiced using the device.
Lytle and Petsch both said these types of training exercises are critical for the health and safety of everyone who steps on campus.
“On a scale of one to ten, I’d say it’s an 11,” Lytle said. “What we’ve learned is that anything can happen at any time, and response is critical to making sure that there’s a positive outcome. I think we’ve learned that whether it’s kids or adults, no one is immune from having something like this happen.”
“Those instincts kick in, and that’s the hope, that as we get more and more people certified in this, that it becomes an instinct, so it’s not something where you’re just going to freeze up,” Petsch said. “Anytime you have more awareness and more training it’s a good thing.”

The Heart Safe School Program ensures staff members are trained in how to use both CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and AED techniques. It also confirms schools have an emergency plan to respond to a person having a heart attack and have well-maintained AEDs on campus.
First responders use an AED medical device to help people who are experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest. The machine analyzes the patient’s heart rhythm and determines the severity of the heart attack. If necessary, it can deliver an electric shock to help the heart re-establish a healthy beat.
Fredstrom’s drill featured a plastic doll that symbolized a person having a heart attack. Petsch responded first and immediately began CPR techniques. Cope came from his office in the gym and grabbed an AED hanging in the hallway. He and Petsch used the device to save the pretend patient’s life.
Richter said she was pleased with the way everyone in the building reacted during the training.

“I thought it went really well,” Richter said. “We know that we’re able to support our kids by doing drills like this. Everyone knows their job and they know exactly what they need to do.”
LPS has partnered with Children’s Nebraska for the local Heart Safe School Program. The partnership enhances the district’s already-established cardiac plan, which includes annual emergency drills and AEDs in every building.
The program includes the Heart Safe School Checklist. Building leaders use the tool to ensure all staff members know where AEDs are located in their school or focus program. They also review AED performance readiness on a monthly basis.
At least five to ten people in each school are on a designated Cardiac Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT members often include administrators, custodians, office staff, school nurses and physical education teachers. Lytle said LPS has 15 school nurses who are certified CPR instructors, which allows certification classes to be held anytime in the district.
Cope said having CERT members practice together builds teamwork that will be vital in an emergency.
“It’s very important,” Cope said. “We have the health and safety of our kids at the top of our minds all of the time, so being able to practice in a group like this is a big deal.”
Kooser Elementary School became the first LPS building to receive the Heart Safe School designation in May 2023. Since then, 41 other sites have earned the label.
The importance of having AED training sessions became crystal clear last year. During the Spring 2023 semester, a fourth-grade student at Kooser experienced a sudden cardiac arrest during class. A school nurse had practiced the emergency protocols and knew how to respond. She immediately assisted the girl and helped save her life with CPR and an AED.
Lytle, who is a Kooser parent, said the incident showed how preparation can make a lifesaving difference. It also highlighted how many staff members have learned CPR and AED skills. They will be able to use that knowledge if an emergency happens on a playground or in a classroom, cafeteria, gym or hallway.
“When I saw the response of the staff there, and really seeing that all over the district, a lot of staff are really willing to be part of our CERT teams, it makes you feel good,” Lytle said. “We know things can happen at any time, but we know everyone is putting in a lot of work to practice and be certified and designated. It makes you feel good knowing that people care a lot about our kids.”

LPS plans to have all schools and focus programs to be designated as Heart Safe Schools by the end of April 2024.
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Published: February 21, 2024, Updated: February 21, 2024

From left, physical education teacher Kenny Cope and school nurse Priscilla Petsch perform a Heart Safe School drill at Fredstrom Elementary School. They practiced saving a patient's life using an automated external defibrillator (AED). More than three dozen LPS sites have earned designations as Heart Safe Schools.