Coon Rapids designated heart safe community

Coon Rapids has become a heart safe community.

A group of residents, spearheaded by Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz, Coon Rapids Fire Inspector Nick House and Paul Mendoza, a North Memorial Medical Center paramedic and Coon Rapids business owner, have been working for several months with the support of the Coon Rapids City Council to get to the point where the city could qualify to be a heart safe community.

An application submitted by Platz to a board set up by the Minnesota Department of Health and the American Heart Association to make the heart safe designations was approved Oct. 8.

Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz (left) gave cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training to visitors at Fire Station 2 during Coon Rapids Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Week open house Saturday. CPR training also took place at the open houses Oct. 12 at the city’s two other fire stations as part of the Coon Rapids Heart Safe Community project.
Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz (left) gave cardio-pulmonary resuscitation training to visitors at Fire Station 2 during Coon Rapids Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Week open house Saturday. CPR training also took place at the open houses Oct. 12 at the city’s two other fire stations as part of the Coon Rapids Heart Safe Community project.

Platz was confident that the city would become the 23rd community in the state and the first in Anoka County to earn the designation.

The requirement under the board’s criteria was 750 points, according to Platz.

“We have 1,350 points,” Platz said. “We did not just want to meet the criteria, we wanted to exceed it by a lot and become a model community, so that others can look to Coon Rapids and see our success.”

The heart safe program has two goals – to ensure that automated external defibrillators are more readily available in the community in places such as schools, workplaces, businesses and athletic facilities and to make sure the public is educated and trained to not only recognize sudden cardiac arrest, but also in the use of an AED and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

According to Platz, the Coon Rapids heart safe program has trained over 1,200 people in the community, identified 106 AEDs in the city including 71 in local businesses, schools and churches and has trained employees from 40 individual businesses in CPR and AED use, Platz said.

In addition, training tables have been set up at major community events this year, including the Coon Rapids Ice Center skating show, Fourth of July celebration, Epiphany Springfest and multiple sporting and other events, he said.

As well, the heart safe project has partnered with a local school, Pathways, to offer the heart safe curriculum as part of an optional life skills course, Platz said.

“Our long-term goal with Heart Safe Coon Rapids is to become a national leader,” he said.

“We want this good work to continue.”

The plan is to train half the city’s population (30,000) and get 50 percent of the city’s businesses (300) to provide public access AEDs, according to Platz.

“Our ambitious, attainable goal is to achieve 50 percent survival rate for cardiac arrest in our community,” Platz said.

In witnessed cardiac arrests, 85 percent of victims survive when immediate CPR is started and an AED is used within the first two minutes, he said.

The current national survival rate is 8 percent. Coon Rapids is now at about a 16 percent survival rate, double the national average, Platz said.

The national survival rate is so low because people tend to wait for the help, rather than be the help, he said.

“Fear becomes paralyzing, overwhelming and people shut down, Platz said.

“In many cases, simply knowing what to do will overcome that fear and lead to lifesaving action being taken.

“Those first two minutes are the most critical in patient survival. We cannot afford to simply wait for emergency medical services to arrive.

“In this game, seconds can literally mean the difference between life and death. If just CPR is started immediately while waiting for emergency services, it improves a patient’s odds of survival by almost 50 percent.

Cities like Rochester and Seattle, Wash., have survival rates at over 50 percent, Platz said.

“This is the kind of survival rate I would like to see in Coon Rapids,” he said.

A successful heart safe community requires not only the participation of residents of the community, but businesses as well, according to Platz.

“The support and enthusiasm shown by the citizens and small family businesses in Coon Rapids has been nothing short of amazing,” Platz said.

The biggest challenge the Heart Safe Coon Rapids program has found to date is getting the large corporate box stores in the community involved, although large companies like Cub Foods and LifeTime Fitness have made the commitment, he said.

“All of the large retailers in town have had multiple cardiac-related incidents over the last decade and in a few tragic cases, a death in the store, or on the store’s property,” Platz said.

“It is not a matter of if, but when this happens again in a business. The real question is will that business be prepared, like they are in the event of a fire, or inclement weather.”

In August, a letter was sent to all businesses in the city urging them to become part of the program.

Three ways in which businesses can be involved were listed in the letter.

• Participate in Heart Safe Coon Rapids’ free bystander CPR and AED training.

• Allow the public to use an AED at a place of business if needed in the case of a sudden cardiac arrest emergency.

• Purchase an AED if the business does not have one already.

The Heart Safe Coon Rapids project has secured discounted AED pricing through three distributors for businesses who wish to purchase an AED.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health website, the heart safe designation recognizes a community’s efforts to prepare its staff and citizens to recognize when someone suffers a sudden cardiac arrest and how to respond.

For more information on the Coon Rapids Heart Safe project, email [email protected]. More information about the program can also be found at

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]

As Coon Rapids was being designated a heart safe community by a state board last week, two saves were reported by the Coon Rapids Police Department.

These are people who survived sudden cardiac arrest thanks to bystander cardio pulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillator use, which is a major goal of the heart safe program.

“This stuff works,” said Bryan Platz, the Coon Rapids Police officer who has spearheaded the heart safe community effort in Coon Rapids.

The first incident was at the Allina Coon Rapids Medical Clinic on Springbrook Drive where a woman in her 60s collapsed in a third-floor hallway, but was resuscitated by staff and a public access AED prior to the arrival of medical services.

“She was alert and talking in the ambulance,” Platz said.

And she is now at home recovering with zero deficit, he said.

Platz and Officer Bob Trusler were involved in the second save at the McCarthy Auto World dealership on 129th Avenue.

A 35-year-old employee at McCarthy Auto World collapsed at his work station and a fellow employee performed CPR for four minutes until the arrival of Trusler and Platz.

“Bob Trusler shocked him once with the police AED while I took over chest compressions,” Platz said. “One minute and 52 seconds after the first shock, he man started grunting as I was doing compressions.”

“I stopped doing compressions, he took a gigantic breath and started to breath by himself again.”

“It was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.”

The fire department arrived and assisted with first aid and when the man was placed in the ambulance, he was breathing on his own, according to Platz.

He has spoken with the man. who is recovering at home after being released from the hospital, Platz said.

“He has zero neurological deficit and is expected to make a full recovery,” he said.

The McCarthy employee will be recognized for his life-saving efforts at the Coon Rapids City Council’s Nov. 7 meeting and the fellow employee he saved will be there, too, Platz said.

“He is a hero,” Platz said. “Had he not done CPR, this man’s life would have almost certainly ended right there on the garage floor.”

According to Platz, these two incidents show how effective bystander CPR and AED use can be.

“Had the victims’ rescuers waited for emergency services to arrive, these stories would have likely resulted in death rather than inspiring stories of survival,” Platz said.

–Peter Bodley, Managing editor