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A Citizen’s Eye View of Public Preparedness

Napolitano’s CPR Training Offers Some Lessons: Integrate Into Workplace, Commitment From Top, Schedule Follow-Up A Year Later

August 26th, 2009 · 3 Comments

U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and more than 25 senior DHS officials  received CPR and first aid training from American Red Cross trainers at the Department’s headquarters in Northwest Washington, D.C. on Friday. During the two-hour session, Secretary Napolitano and her staff received hands-on training from Red Cross instructors in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic first aid and use of automated external defibrillators (AEDs). This marks the first year the Red Cross has provided this type of training to federal officials in Washington, D.C.

Janet Napolitano


Secretary Napolitano’s decision to undertake this training at DHS was constructive in a number of ways. First of all, of course, it added her and more than 25 new people to the ranks of those are better prepared to help their fellow citizens in a medical emergency. It also brings some high-level attention to one of the concrete — and relatively easy — things that individuals and institutions can do to become more prepared.

Making the workplace a location for citizen/employee preparedness training and planning is such a crucial element in making substantive steps towards becoming a more prepared nation. And getting the commitment and involvement from the top of an organization is always a key. Napolitano was sending the message that this was worth two hours of her time and that of her employees.

When I took CPR at the Red Cross’s Greater New York Chapter two years ago, I was struck by how many in the class were taking the course because they had to for work (many were physical trainers and CPR is part of the certification process). I too was there in large part because it was clearly an aspect of my work. While maybe in the ideal world everyone would volunteer to take these courses on their own time, the reality is that if we expect people to take CPR/First Aid — as well as other preparedness tasks — we have to make it easier for them to do it.

Let me make a small suggestion to DHS based on my own CPR experience: put a renewal training on the schedule 365 days for now since the certification only lasts for a year. I will admit here that my certification has lapsed. And, I am not alone: in the last few weeks, I have happened to speak to several people in the preparedness field who sheepishly admitted to me that they too needed to get re-certified. (Empathetically, I will not disclose their identities.) If a follow-up re-certification is not scheduled a year from now, I know from experience that there will be a lot of folks walking around DHS headquarters in September of 2010 with expired cards.

By the way, Red Cross personnel train and certify approximately six million people each year through CPR, AED, and first aid courses available daily at 700 Red Cross chapters across the nation. If you’re interested yourself, get in touch with your local Red Cross chapter or visit

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Tags: Preparedness Events · Preparedness Ideas

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