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Cambridge-Isanti High School nurse Hope Tanko alongside the centrally located AED and first aid equipment location near the school’s cafeteria. Photo by Tiffany Kafer

In a panicked state of emergency, knowing there are trained staff available to assist, who possess the knowledge to operate available life-saving equipment when needed, is just one of the reasons the Cambridge-Isanti School District has AEDs on site at each school and utilizes an emergency response team when needed.

“We know that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) greatly enhance the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest victims,” district Superintendent Nathan Rudolph said. “By equipping our schools with these devices, we are able to provide increased safety for not only our students, but also for staff members, visitors, and community members who use our school facilities. Each of the school buildings in Cambridge-Isanti have at least one AED located in the school. Our district is constantly striving to increase levels of access through the addition of devices throughout our organization, including having multiple devices in our larger buildings.”

For more than a decade, schools within the district have been equipped with AEDs, and while thankfully they haven’t been utilized too often, their availability provides a peace of mind and safety for those entering the schools.

“We have two AEDs in our school,” said Cambridge-Isanti High School nurse Hope Tanko. “One is by our cafeteria, which in centrally located in our school and immediately inside of the main entrance, as well as one near our gym. Those locations were (chosen) because they are the most centrally located, for the AED near the gym specifically, it’s placed there for those students who may have an underlying heart issue — that’s where it will be needed.”

The AED located near the gym is not only beneficial to those students in gym class, but for those spectators visiting the school for sporting events or other community events held at the school.

“We have a lot of events outside of school hours, so placing that AED near the gym is important,” said Cambridge-Isanti High School Principal Steve Gibbs. “Having the other AED outside the cafeteria is important as well, because our academic wing is locked outside of school hours and having that AED behind those locked doors would serve no purpose to the greater community.

“This isn’t just about our students, it’s about the greater community; our school becomes a community center after hours and we wanted to make sure we had the AEDs accessible for not only our students, but for everyone that walks though our doors,” Gibbs added.

Simply having the AEDs in each school isn’t enough; having trained staff who are able to recognize emergency situations and know what measures need to be taken is equally important.

“As recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, a licensed school nurse is located in every school building within the Cambridge-Isanti Schools District. This provides an increased ability to respond quickly and safely to emergencies and student needs. We also provide yearly AED training to staff members. We are proud to be able to offer this level of care to the students, staff, families, and community members,” Rudolph said.

“Every year we train all staff at our staff meeting at the beginning of the school year by myself; if they miss that training they meet with me one-on-one for training,” Tanko said. “During that training I also teach everyone how to administer EpiPens, and the glucagon for diabetics. We focus on these three things, as well as go through seizures precautions and other health situations.”

“Being able to have all staff educated and trained to use our equipment is important; having staff who can assist me in the school in an emergency situation is really helpful,” Tanko added.

Providing training, education to students

While staff are annually trained at the schools throughout the district, providing training and education to students within the schools is also a focus.

For Cambridge-Isanti High School health teacher Bailey Hastings, educating students is important, and in her five years teaching health at the high school, she’s been able to educate students through her lesson plans on both CPR and AED use.

“CPR and AED training can save lives and increase the chance of survival for sudden cardiac arrest victims. Knowledge and practice of these skills can provide students, staff, and their families with the experience needed to provide life-saving care to loved ones,” Hastings said. “Many students know what CPR is and what AEDs look like. However, most students have not had experience practicing CPR or using an AED. Learning how to perform CPR, when to perform it, and how to use an AED are crucial skills that adolescents need to learn in order to save lives.”

While health teachers throughout the district provide training on emergency situations, Isanti School Resource Officer Adam Gau also teaches seventh grade students at Isanti Middle School/Minnesota Center.

“We do our AED and CPR training in seventh grade classes, which is tied into their cardiac unit in health class,” Gau said. “We go into the health class and teach hands-on CPR and hands-on AED to every seventh grade student.”

“Any education we provide, whether it’s to our staff, our students, or our community can save a life,” Gibbs said.

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