The Pickerington Local School District recently was lauded for taking steps to prepare for incidents of cardiac arrest in four schools.

The Pickerington Local School District recently was lauded for taking steps to prepare for incidents of cardiac arrest in four schools.

Representatives of Fairfield Medical Center's Gordon B. Snider Cardiovascular Institute and the Snider Community Heart Watch at Fairfield Medical Center Jan. 13 recognized school district officials for being a leader in health safety.

During a Pickerington School Board meeting, medical center officials noted four schools -- Heritage Elementary, Pickerington Elementary, Violet Elementary and Harmon Middle School -- all have obtained Heart Safe School Accreditation.

"I want to thank you and want to congratulate all your buildings because everyone is going to get there," said Ashley Spires, a cardiac catheterization lab registered nurse for Fairfield Medical Center.

"I know that's going to happen and it's probably going to happen in the next year," Spires said.

"Your entire district is working toward becoming a 'Heart Safe' school district, which in and of itself would be the first the first Heart Safe district in the country."

The Heart Safe School Accreditation program is an initiative started in 2013 by Fairfield Medical Center and the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation.

It has continued through a partnership between SADS, the cardiovascular institute and the Snider Community Heart Watch by which accreditation is granted schools that meet criteria designed to ensure safety of students, staff and school visitors who might suffer sudden cardiac arrest.

Those criteria include having students undergo pediatric sudden cardiac arrest risk assessments, development of care plans for students with cardiac medical diagnoses and the establishment of medical emergency response drills.

Additionally, automated external defibrillators must be available through the schools, their CPR-trained staff to student ratio must be one to 50 or better, CPR instruction must be provided to students as part of classroom instruction and education on sudden cardiac arrest in youth must be provided annually.

In recognizing the four local schools which have achieved accreditation, medical center officials also noted two Lancaster City Schools became accredited while current Pickerington Superintendent Rob Walker was head of the Lancaster City Schools District.

"Six of the seven schools have become accredited under (Walker's) watch," said Bob Williams, supervisor of Fairfield Medical Center's cardiovascular services. "We now have taught over 5,000 of his students."

Walker said he bought into the Heart Safe Accreditation program after hearing that a cardiac arrest occurs in one of 50 schools each year.

He said participation in the accreditation program improves safety for Pickerington students, staff and school visitors.

"This has been a challenge issued to all our schools that we feel is critical," Walker said.