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CSU fitness workers practice emergencies

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Capt. Elton Poss, of the Morrow Fire Department, warned 20 employees of Clayton State University's Student Activities Center Thursday to always be prepared for a medical emergency.

Moments earlier, the employees of the center performed a series of emergency drills , with assistance from the Morrow Fire Department and the Clayton State Department of Public Safety. The goal of the drills was to work out any kinks, and prepare for four emergency scenarios.

"It's not a matter of if it will happen," Poss told employees, "it's a matter of when it will happen."

It has been a few years since someone had heart problems, while working out at a Clayton State-owned fitness facility, but other medical emergencies, such as knee and ankle injuries, often happen during intramural sporting events, according to Cindy Lauer, the university's director of recreation and wellness.

The frequency of sports-related injuries led the Recreation and Wellness Department to conduct annual emergency drills for its employees. Lauer said the American College of Sports Medicine recommends such drills.

This year, the employees, most of whom are fitness assistants, participated in the drills. The scenarios they tackled involved responding to a cardiac arrest, a possible heart attack during a workout, a spinal injury on a basketball court, and hypoglycemia.

"It's good practice to do this now, so they'll know what to do when they face these situations for real," said Lauer. "If mistakes are going to happen, I want them to happen during the drill, rather than a real emergency."

The emergency drills this year were more extensive than those in the past, because of the space available to conduct them. Previously, the drills took place in a small portion of the university's Athletics and Fitness Center. This year, they were held in the Student Activity Center's two-story workout area, roughly four times larger than the old facility.

The change made more elaborate drills possible, said Lauer.

"It's extremely important that they [employees] are brought to the realization level where they can recognize a medical emergency," said Poss. "Anytime you receive training, it helps you get through real-life emergencies."

During the cardiac arrest drill, fire medic Jim Hudgell told the student employees they have the ability to "change history" by knowing what to do if a medical emergency arises. He explained that the death of a person can have a ripple effect which touches the lives of the relatives and others.

"This is very serious business," Hudgell said. "This is life and death."

Several employees of the SAC said the training they received was helpful.

"I learned how to assess a situation, like if someone is having a heart attack, and how to keep them calm until help arrives," said Jason Clark, a sophomore from Decatur. "I don't want to overwhelm them while I'm trying to figure out what is wrong with them."

Katherine Peppers, a health and fitness management intern at the SAC, said she, too, learned the importance of keeping a level head during a medical crisis. "The biggest thing I learned was I need to be able to comfort them, and assure them I know what I'm doing," said Peppers. "Now, I can recall this information when I'm faced with a real-life medical emergency."