Iowa United First Aid program being tested in three counties

DES MOINES — Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg says a pilot project in three Iowa counties may be a way to provide quicker emergency responses in rural areas. 

“A heart attack, a choking incident, a stroke — if that happens to happen in one of the outlying parts of a county, even under the best circumstances despite the hard work of volunteers, geography may just dictate that it’s going to be 20-25 minutes before somebody can arrive,” Gregg says.

Beyond the ambulance crews and EMTs already in place around the state, the “Iowa United First Aid” program will train new groups of volunteers in Cass, Calhoun and Van Buren Counties in what Gregg describes as “CPR Plus.”  “CPR, use of an AED which is a defibrillator , stop the bleed type training and basic first aid,” Gregg says. “We’ll be equipping them with a ‘go bag’ that has those basic materials, including an AED and of course the most important piece of this will be an app on their phone that will allow 911 dispatch to alert them if they happen to be one of the closest people to the emergency.”

Gregg got the idea for the program when he visited Israel last year and learned about a smart phone app that alerts medical professionals if there’s an emergency nearby. Earlier this week Gregg was in Keosauqua to meet with over 30 people who’re starting volunteer orientation for the program in Van Buren County. “I had the opportunity to say, ‘Thank you,’ to them, for being willing to try something new,” Gregg says, “for being willing to step up and serve their community in this way.”

Gregg is also urging the group to provide feedback about how the program works and if changes may be needed.   “This is not your typical grant program where you get some funds and you do some training or you get some funds and you buy some equipment,” Gregg says. “There’s obviously a concept that we want to test here.”

The three counties involved in the pilot program have each gotten a $50,000 state grant, which is being matched with $25,000 in local resources.  Nearly all that money is being used to buy the bags and medical equipment for each of the volunteers.