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Howard fire department trains school bus drivers to perform CPR on students

Charlton Allen has been driving a school bus in Howard County for 15 years. While he has never had a medical emergency on any of his buses, he said he is confident in his ability to perform CPR on a student should an emergency arise.

Allen recently attended a CPR training session at Wilde Lake Middle School. The session for Howard school bus drivers was taught by the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services.

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“We want to give as many people as possible the confidence [to perform CPR] … especially people who come in contact with children,” said Brad Tanner, a spokesman for the fire department.

CPR is administered when someone’s breathing or heart has stopped.

Over three training days in August, 750 bus drivers and bus assistants/aides participated in the CPR training, according to Tanner.

“The more people who know how to save a life, the more lives will be saved,” he said.

Since 2015, the fire department has provided training to bus drivers every other year.

The fire department has also trained school system health educators on CPR. After being trained, the health educators began to teach CPR training to sixth- and ninth-grade students. On average, 8,500 Howard students learn CPR training each year.

Kathryn Larkins, a risk reduction educator for the fire department, led the CPR training Wednesday. She started the session going through the basics, including how CPR no longer includes mouth-to-mouth breathing on adults. An adult is considered anyone age 8 and older.

Instead, Larkins explained how to put your hands on top of each other and put the heel of your bottom hand on the person’s sternum and begin to push. The person pushing needs to press down 100 times per minute.

Larkins made it clear to the bus drivers that it’s OK to break someone's ribs when giving them CPR.

“If you’re pushing hard, it’s going to happen,” she said. “You’re most likely going to hear them break and feel them break, but you need to keep pushing.”

In her 18-year career with Howard fire and rescue, Larkins has administered CPR more than 200 times, breaking nearly 100 ribs in the process.

Allen, whose routes this year includes Patuxent Valley Middle School in Jessup, walked out of the session confident.

The training allows for bus drivers “to have a good start” on knowing CPR, Allen said.

Bill Stolis, an area manager for Howard schools’ transportation department, said he wants bus drivers to have CPR training and awareness as well as comfort in administering it.

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Bus drivers on average drive 150 kids per school day, Stolis said.

In order to maintain commercial driver’s licenses, bus drivers have to complete six hours of training yearly, Stolis said. Four hours are completed in the summer and the remaining two in the fall.

Other training sessions last week included defensive driving, inclement weather safety and first aid taught by county school nurses. Bus aides, who serve as extra support on school buses, also came in for training.

Later this month, the fire department is training school system health educators in Stop the Bleed, a national awareness campaign that encourages bystanders to become trained to help in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives. The training will allow for the health educators to teach Stop the Bleed in all county ninth-grade health classes.

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