LO police, firefighters not complacent over recent success

Don Johnson knew that he had come to the right place when he took over as police chief in Lake Oswego. DON JOHNSON

While previously serving as police chief in a California city, Johnson had introduced the use of defibrillators in police cars to be used whenever someone suffered cardiac arrest. His innovation then was not warmly welcomed.

“There was resistance,” Johnson said. “They asked, ‘Is that our job?’”

That wasn’t the case in Lake Oswego.

“When I came here two years ago, there was no resistance from our officers about having defibrillators put on our cars,” he said. “They could see the value of it. These guys hustle like nobody’s business.”

Ed Wilson, chief of the Lake Oswego Fire Department, is a strong partner in this venture. He has an outstanding first response team led by Steve DeHart, emergency medical services coordinator, and yet he would like many more Lake Oswego citizens to be on the team.

“Why don’t more people use CPR procedures? Wilson asked. “No. 1, they don’t know them. Second, they think they might make the situation worse. Third, they don’t want to breathe into another person’s mouth, especially if they’re a stranger.

ED WILSON“But if something is not done in the first six or seven minutes of a cardiac arrest, the person’s chances of surviving are greatly reduced. Studies show that if a body has enough oxygen for 10 to 12 minutes, that is plenty of time for a firefighter or police officer arriving on the scene to save a life.”

Johnson calls the CPR program “a game changer for you, me and our loved ones” when it comes to saving lives in Lake Oswego, where first responders have received the training and equipment to bring people back to life. Across the nation the “save rate” for first responders saving the lives of heart attack victims is a mere 6 percent. In Lake Oswego, the save rate is 28 percent, the sixth highest rate of any city in the United States.

Johnson and Wilson are happy and proud about this accomplishment.

“That is huge,” Johnson said. But they are not nearly satisfied. They would like to boost that figure up into the 30s or even to 40 percent.

“This is not the end,” Johnson said. “I met with the fire department (several) weeks ago and asked, ‘How do we get better?’ We’re going to partner to teach CPR at parks and recreation events. It would be ideal to teach hundreds of people across Lake Oswego. We want to get this in people’s minds.”

Lake Oswego’s CPR program has a great foundation.

“The LOFD is the key,” he said. “It oversees our program. We are the supporters; they are the masters. They make sure they come in right behind us and do all the things critical to you coming out alive.”

“Our whole goal is to get more people exposed so they can do something in an emergency,” Wilson said. “This is something I feel deeply about.”

Dr. Ritu Sahni, medical director of the Lake Oswego Fire Department, oversees the CPR program. DR. RITU SAHNI

“He’s one of the busiest proponents of life-saving techniques that I’ve ever seen,” said Johnson, who has selected four officers to train with Sahni. “We had a lifesaving fair in August, and Dr. Sahni personally taught 100 people CPR techniques. You are expected to push hard and fast until the police department gets there.”

Johnson was proud to note: “The police department had five saves last year. But that is not enough.”

Johnson’s goals for the future include equipping every motorized police vehicle with an AED (Automotive External Defibrillator) unit. Even motorcycles.

“We’re going to have decals on cars that say ‘AED Equipment,’” Johnson said. “That wouldn’t happen in other cities. You’re more likely to survive in the city of Lake Oswego than you are in other places.”

Along with everything else, Johnson said a recognition event for survivors is planned.

Still, the fire department, police department and Sahni would like some help from their friends in Lake Oswego. Ideally, that means everybody.

Other than saving a life, Johnson said, “There is not too much else you can do that can change an entire family’s life.”

Lake Oswego’s CPR program is a partnership with Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue and the Lake Oswego School District.

More information:

Cliff Newell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 105.

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