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News Release    

September 25, 2007      

For Further Information Contact:
William R. Steinhaus, County Executive
(845) 486-2000

County Executive Steinhaus Launches HEART Safe Community Program
First County in the Nation

Poughkeepsie… Dutchess County Executive Williams R. Steinhaus announced a new county-wide initiative to save lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims.

The Executive launched launched the Dutchess County HEART Safe Community Program effort today at the Culinary Institute of America in collaboration with the American Heart Association.  The aim of the HEART Safe Community program is to improve the chances for anyone suffering from sudden cardiac arrest to have the best possible chance for survival. 

The program recognizes and honors the efforts of municipalities, businesses, educational institutions and other community organizations who have taken steps to potentially save the lives of sudden cardiac arrest victims through the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and increased public access to defibrillation devices.

More than 140 residents in Dutchess County die each year due to sudden cardiac arrest.  Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Dutchess County and in the nation.  When a cardiac arrest occurs, the sooner CPR and defibrillation are provided, the better the chances of survival.  

 “Dutchess County has created the first County-based HEART Safe Community Program in the nation because we know the potential life saving impact of highly accessible CPR training and defibrillators,” said County Executive Steinhaus.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), less than five percent of sudden cardiac arrest victims survive because a vast majority witnessing the arrest do not know CPR or the “chain of survival,” which consists of a series of four steps.    Knowledge and execution of the following steps can increase the survival rate by 20 percent or more:

  • Early access to care (dial 911 immediately);
  • Early CPR to maintain blood flow to the brain until the next step;
  • Early defibrillation to deliver a shock of electricity to restart the heart with the use of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED); and
  • Early advanced care to be administered by a pre-hospital emergency team at the scene and during transport to the hospital.

“Our HEART Safe Community initiative is part of our ongoing cardiac response and care programs,” said Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH, Commissioner of Health. “It is our hope the HEART Safe Community initiative will engage the community to obtain strategic placement of automated external defibrillators (AED) and large numbers of people trained in CPR, thereby increasing the chances of survival from a cardiac arrest in Dutchess County,” he added. 

County Executive William Steinhaus charged the Dutchess County Department of Health to work in collaboration with the American Heart Association to launch the HEART Safe Community program as an awareness outreach effort designed to increase the cardiac arrest survival rate. 

Educational institutions, work places, community based organizations (CBO or Faith Based), or local jurisdictions are all eligible to apply for certification as a HEART Safe Community.  The certification has three levels of recognition based on criteria met:  Bronze, Silver, and Gold.  A HEART Safe Community promotes and supports:

  • CPR training in the community;
  • Public access to defibrillation through strategic placement of automated external defibrillators (AEDs) for use by public safety professionals and other trained community members;
  • Early advanced care; and
  • Increase of out-of-hospital survival rate.

The Department of Health and the Dutchess County HEART Safe Committee will work with communities to provide technical assistance and guidance to help them meet the application criteria.

“The American Heart Association welcomes opportunities to strengthen the Chain of Survival on local levels and applauds Dutchess County as it encourages its communities to achieve the HEART Safe designation,” said Michele Lieberman, Community Strategies Manager, American Heart Association. 

As part of the HEART Safe Community launch, County Executive Steinhaus presented special recognitions to Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp and Rhinebeck High School for their efforts to improve the cardiac arrest response and care to their communities through the implementation of CPR training on site as well as strategic placement of automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in their buildings and grounds.

“Central Hudson and Rhinebeck High School have taken important steps to be ready in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest emergency.  Their efforts demonstrate how much they care for their employees, visitors and classmates,” said County Executive Steinhaus.  “I look forward to honoring many other businesses, schools, towns and others with our HEART Safe Community recognition.”  

Linda Cotter-Forbes, whose daughter Kaitlin Forbes, a Rhinebeck High School student, survived a cardiac arrest in May 2005 because school staff members were trained in CPR and in the use of an AED (automatic external defibrillator), participated in the event and is very proud of the initiative.  “Rhinebeck High School and Central Hudson have worked so hard to increase the number of people who are CPR and AED trained,” said Cotter-Forbes.  “It is time for all our schools, businesses and organizations to get involved and take the challenge to receive the HEART Safe designation. These designations let residents and visitors of Dutchess County know that they have a good chance of surviving a cardiac arrest because there are a lot of people committed to saving lives.”  

Dutchess County is the first county in the nation to initiate the HEART Safe Community program at a county level.  First piloted in Massachusetts, the program has been done state-wide in Connecticut and Rhode Island.   New York State has not yet instituted the program.
Organizations, businesses, municipalities and others who would like to be considered as a HEART Safe Community can log onto for additional information and to obtain an application.


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