The Upper Arlington Fire Division has been commended by the American Heart Association for its training and responsiveness to severe heart attacks.

The Upper Arlington Fire Division has been commended by the American Heart Association for its training and responsiveness to severe heart attacks.

For the first time in its history, the UAFD received the AHA's Mission: Lifeline EMS Bronze Award. The designation recognizes emergency-medical service agencies that implement a STEMI system (ST elevation myocardial infarction) to improve the quality of care and outcomes of patients who suffer severe heart attacks.

The Upper Arlington department is one of 22 EMS agencies in Ohio and 207 nationwide to receive the award.

"When we first see a patient to the time they get a blocked artery of the heart opened up, the goal is 90 minutes," UAFD Capt. Lyndon Nofziger said. "After the 90 minutes, survivability of heart attacks decreases."

To earn the Mission: Lifeline EMS Performance Achievement Award, EMS agencies must meet volume criteria and achieve a 75 percent or higher compliance score for each specific EMS quality measure from three to 12 months. The measures include:

• Percentage of patients older than 35 with non-traumatic chest pain, treated and transported by EMS who receive a pre-hospital 12 lead ECG.

• Percentage of STEMI patients transported to a STEMI receiving center, with pre-hospital first medical contact (FMC) to device in less than 90 minutes.

• Percentage of STEMI patients taken to referring hospitals that administer fibrinolytic therapy with a door-to-needle time within 30 minutes.

Nofziger said the UAFD demonstrated it met that goal in at least 75 percent of incidents in 2013. In two of the four quarters of that year, he said, the division was 100-percent compliant.

"These were incidents where these people were actually in the process of having a life-threatening heart attack," he said. "Our department goal is to be on the scene in less than 15 minutes.

"That's getting to the patient, recognizing they're having a heart attack, acquiring a 12-lead ECG, then starting oxygen and an IV and giving them the appropriate medication as needed."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 5,263 Ohioans died from STEMI events in 2010.

Nofziger said each of the UAFD's 56 firefighters has completed EMS training, and they receive enhanced training in advanced cardiovascular life support, which is akin to training required of doctors and nurses.

Additionally, he said, firefighters undergo regular, continuing education in STEMI response to ensure they're meeting the latest EMS standards. He said the department has purchased a wealth of heart monitors, reporting systems and other updated equipment to address severe heart attacks.

"They're figuring out that we can do a lot of things on the scene to recognize and treat conditions and get that patient to the hospital," Nofziger said. "The fire division is very proud of the accomplishments of our men and women in the field to bring the best emergency medical care to our residents.

"We're proud to be the leader of pre-hospital emergency medical care in central Ohio."