Vermont Press Releases

Today governor signs law that will keep the beat going

For immediate release
May 23, 2012

Audra Burns
American Heart Association
Communications Director
603.494.2179 (cell)
[email protected]

CPR in Schools Bill will Create a New Generation of Lifesavers

Williston,VT – Tommy Watson can soon add a very prestigious name to his log of CPR trainees. Today the eighth-grade student will train Gov. Peter Shumlin in Hands-Only CPR, just before the governor signs S.245. The new law provides every Vermont student with an opportunity to learn CPR before graduating. Enactment of the new law, and a growing list of almost 300 trainees, has far surpassed the 14-year-old Williston student’s goal of training 100 people in Hands-Only CPR for his 8th Grade Challenge.

WHEN: Wednesday May 23, 1:30 p.m.

WHERE: Williston Central School, 195 Central School Drive, Williston

“I am really excited to have CPR in schools legislation passed,” said Watson. “It was a huge achievement accomplished. It means a lot to me knowing future generations of Vermont youth are going to be able to potentially make a difference by using this life-saving technique. It is also an honor to be training the Governor of Vermont.”

“Thanks to Tommy’s hard work and commitment to this issue, students across the state for years to come will be trained in CPR and able to step forward with help in emergency situations,” said Gov. Shumlin. “Tommy is an example to other students of how one Vermonter can make a real difference at the State House.”

“We are very proud of Tommy’s leadership in supporting the CPR bill,” said Jackie Parks, principal of Williston Central School. “Our 8th grade challenge gives students an opportunity to pursue an area of interest that has a strong community connection. Tommy’s project is a great example of what we hope students will accomplish with their projects.”

AHA volunteer, emergency physician from Northwester Medical Center, Marc Kutler, said the new CPR law is a much-needed step as hundreds of thousands of cardiac arrest victims die every year because CPR is not started on time. “Teaching CPR to all Vermont students will create a generation in which every brother, sister, son, daughter, friend, and complete stranger is trained in CPR and is prepared to save lives,” said Kutler.

Kutler noted that one barrier, the lack of experience, will be remedied by the hands-on practice included in the law because people are more inclined to take action if they’ve had practice. He added, “New Hands-Only CPR courses also mean the time commitment for training is less than 30 minutes — a very doable task and great skill for our schools to be teaching.”

“I’m alive because my husband knew CPR,” said Michelle Johnston of Shelburne, who suffered sudden cardiac arrest in October 2009. “I get chills thinking about how many more lives might be saved because so many students will know CPR.”

According to the American Heart Association, only 11 percent of the 383,000 people who suffer sudden cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year survive. In children, less than 9 percent survive from sudden cardiac arrest.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for a new generation of lifesavers to be the beat for someone who needs it,” said Tina Zuk, Government Relations Director of the American Heart Association in Vermont. “Thanks to the new law and Tommy’s efforts, the odds of survival for cardiac arrest victims just increased in Vermont as thousands of students will soon flood our communities with the ability to save lives.”

Bennington Rescue Squad Training Director Erin Ingrebretsen said it’s critical for lay rescuers to know and perform timely CPR especially in many rural parts of Vermont. Ingebretsen said the rescue squad will train students at their local high school in the fall as part of the Bennington Rescue’s efforts to create a Heart Safe Community.

There were many other noted supporters of the bill including:

Senator Kevin Mullins, R-Rutland County, who was the lead sponsor of S.245 and chairs the Senate Education Committee where the first hearing on it was held

Senator Ginny Lyons, D-Chittenden County is from Tommy Watson’s hometown of Williston. She also sits on the senate Education Committee. We introduced Tommy to Ginny prior to the session and he showed her how to perform hands-only CPR and told her how his project began. She was a co-sponsor of the CPR legislation.

Senator Phil Baruth, D-Chittenden County who was one of the bill’s biggest champions reporting it out on the Senate floor, testifying in favor of it before the House Committee when they took it up and pushing for the report on what schools were doing with CPR training when the bill went to conference committee

Representative Johanna Donovan, D-Burlington, who is the chair of the House Education Committee.

Representative Kevin Christie, D-White River Junction, sits on the House Education Committee, reported the bill out on the House floor and sat on the bill’s conference committee.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.

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