CUMBERLAND, R.I. (WPRI) — Three years ago, Rena Fleury went into cardiac arrest at a Cumberland High School football game and died after the 911 dispatcher failed to recognize the 45-year-old needed CPR.
A new law signed ceremonially on Tuesday by Gov. Dan McKee aims to ensure that never happens again by having everyone who answers emergency calls be prepared to give potentially live-saving instructions over the phone.
“This is crucial. It saves lives, and it can be the difference between life and death for one of us,” McKee said.
Under the law, which went into effect back in June, all 911 operators are required to be certified in “telecommunicator CPR.”
Its sponsors, Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin and House Deputy Majority Whip Mia Ackerman, shared Fleury’s story Tuesday, saying that and other incidents where bystanders were unable to perform CPR were the reason behind the legislation.
“By training 911 operators in telecommunicator CPR, we save precious time by allowing a caller to begin lifesaving actions immediately, rather than have to wait for the arrival of rescue personnel,” Goodwin said.
Patients are two to three times more likely to survive when CPR is started before first responders arrive, according to Ackerman.
“911 operators are the real first responders and can make the difference between life and death,” Ackerman added. “T-CPR can help untrained callers provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation. It can also remind those who are trained how to provide high-quality CPR.”
Dr. Joseph Lauro, the director of Cumberland’s Emergency Medical Services, said they’re already seeing positive results.
“We’re seeing much better outcomes in patients that are suffering from possible cardiac arrest,” he explained. “On average, when it takes about 4–7 minutes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene … every minute without CPR, your chance of survival from a possible cardiac arrest decreases by 10 percent.”
In addition to the T-CPR training, the new law also establishes a call review and quality improvement program for emergency telephone systems.