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Fire department training 'makes us all safer'

Jed Carlson / Superior Firefighter Corey Larson, right, teaches CPR to students from Superior Middle School in January. On Monday, the Superior Fire Department was awarded the Pediatric Champion of the Year from the Wisconsin Emergency Medical Services for Children Program for the event at SMS.1 / 2
Jed Carlson/ Superior firefighters accept the 2017 Pediatric Champion of the Year Award Monday at the headquarters building on Tower Avenue. They are, left to right, Fire Chief Steve Panger, seventh grade science teacher Jeremy Bird, Superior School District Director of Curriculum and Instruction Crystal Hintzman, Battalion Chief Scott Gordon, firefighter Cory Larson, Erica Kane with the organization and firefighter John Prendergast.2 / 2

The Superior Fire Department's efforts to equip middle school students with lifesaving skills earned state recognition Monday.

Over the last four years, the Emergency Medical Services for Children Pediatric Champion of the Year Award has recognized a crew that responded to an emergency call involving children. Monday was the first time it went to an entire department, or to a proactive program.

The Superior Fire Department accepted the award for providing hands-only CPR and AED training to about 300 Superior Middle School students during a single day in January.

"We were really excited about the work happening at the city of Superior Fire Department because we know what a big impact this kind of community education and prevention can be," said Erica Kane, project manager for Emergency Medical Services for Children, an initiative of Children's Health Alliance of Wisconsin. "When it comes to an emergency, the more people around who are able to help, the better. We know fire and ambulance will get here as quickly as possible, but it's really the bystanders who are going to be the first ones to assist."

"We see this as so many lives that will be potentially saved," Kane said.

Prompted by a new state mandate to teach CPR and the use of AEDs, the Superior School District reached out to the Superior Fire Department and asked for help developing the training.

"We wanted to do this better, make it a better program," Bird said, and to involve the community.

Members of the department's paid for services program crafted a four-course rotation, adding first aid basics and a firefighter career module to round out the day. And they put it together in 10 days.

"The school and the fire department had the same vision, teaching kids," said seventh grade science teacher, Jeremy Bird. "We call it a heart healthy community."

The award was just a byproduct.

"Our goal, obviously, was to teach students hands-only CPR, maybe save a life, give them the skills they need, but the award is just ... it's very honoring," Bird said. "It's an honor to get this award, to be a part of this award. It's a team effort; we all worked together."

The training came at the end of a week of speakers, including a Gold Cross Ambulance paramedic and heart attack survivor, who stressed the importance of knowing CPR.

"It was amazing. They loved it," Bird said. "They were having fun with it, they learned from it; it was very beneficial."

Students had to demonstrate what they'd learned, and most said they would feel comfortable providing hands-only CPR if they needed to.

"It's a skill that hopefully they'll never have to use, but if they do, they know what to do," Bird said.

About a month later, some of the seventh graders were asked to share their new skills.

"The students actually taught some of our staff members hands-only CPR," Bird said.

The program was so successful that community partners have lined up to pay the $1,300 cost for the training in coming years.

"This is a great project," said Superior Fire Chief Steve Panger. "It's not hard finding people who want to fund it. It's a great cause; a great program."

As of Monday, it was also an award-winner.

"This program really makes us all safer," Kane said.