Heart and Vascular

Williamsburg Region Officially Designated a HEARTSafe Community

August 19, 2020
Williamsburg Region Officially Designated a HEARTSafe Community

The Greater Williamsburg HEARTSafe Alliance Community Health Initiative Engages Health, Business, Tourism, Government and Community Groups in Effort to Save Lives

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – The Greater Williamsburg HEARTSafe Alliance is pleased to announce that its HEARTSafe Community application was approved, and status was granted, by the Rappahannock EMS Council. The Alliance is comprised of the following community organizations: Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg, Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center, Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance, Williamsburg, James City County and York County EMS services and the Peninsulas EMS Council, Inc. Additional support for the project came from William & Mary’s Raymond A. Mason School of Business.

The HEARTSafe program “is a public health initiative designed to help people survive after sudden out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.” When a person’s heart suddenly stops, certain life-saving and scientifically supported measures, such as CPR and defibrillation, must be implemented as soon as possible in order to keep them alive. The more resources available to the community at large the higher rate of survival. “The HEARTSafe Community concept works by creating criteria that support this ‘cardiac chain of survival’ and encouraging communities to work toward them.”

Through the partnership of the two hospitals, the three Fire/EMS agencies and the business community, we have been able to develop an alliance that will help us raise awareness and strengthen the chain of survival for anyone living in and visiting the Greater Williamsburg area.

“The HEARTSafe recognition for Greater Williamsburg is a true demonstration of how community partners can collaborate to improve the health and wellbeing of the areas they serve,” said Adria Vanhoozier, Vice President/Administrator of Riverside Doctors’ Hospital Williamsburg. “The program lays the foundation for the community to ensure that our residents and visitors will have the immediate care they need if they experience a cardiac event.  Riverside is proud to have collaborated with our community leaders to make this a reality.”

“We are delighted to receive national recognition as a HEARTSafe place to live and visit,” said David Masterson, President of Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center. “This project demonstrates impressive collaboration in the Greater Williamsburg region, not only amongst healthcare providers but in partnership with our corporate and private citizens. This sets the baseline for great improvements in maintaining and restoring heart health.”

“The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance is proud to be associated with this important initiative to make our area a HEARTSafe community,” said Karen Riordan, President and CEO of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance. “This is a win for business as employers desire a happy, healthy workforce and it’s a win for employees who learn preventive measures to be more heart-healthy. It is also a win for our tourism destination as guests will want to vacation at a place like greater Williamsburg that has been designated HEARTSafe.”

The concept was developed by David Hiltz and Michael Aries in Massachusetts in 2002. The program has spread across the United States as well to other countries such as Ireland, New Zealand and Taiwan. Nearly 600 HEARTSafe Communities have been established internationally to date. Every community initiative is staffed by volunteers, and managed independently by its regional member organizations. Strong peer support is available.

The designation ceremony was held February 20, 2018, at the Williamsburg Community Building. The official pronouncement was made to the Greater Williamsburg HEARTSafe Alliance by Lori Knowles, Deputy Chief-EMS, Stafford County Fire & Rescue, and Wayne Perry, Executive Director, Rappahannock EMS. Speakers at the recognition event, in addition to Vanhoozier, Masterson and Riordin, included:

  • Joel Griffin of Stafford, Va., Gwyneth’s Law Foundation, who lost his daughter Gwyneth at age 13 to a cardiac event, and worked on the passage of Gwyneth’s Law which requires Virginia high-school age students receive CPR training, teachers receive hands-on training, and an AED in every school (available for interview);
  • Amanda Stonier of Yorktown, Va., whose son Andrew survived a cardiac event with the aid of immediate action from school personnel (available for interview);
  • Scott Grafton, Owner, Iron-Bound Gym; 
  • Regional Director Drew Lumpkin of U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s office; and
  • Regional Director Diane Kaufman of U.S. Senator Tim Kaine's office.

Common elements of a community’s program can vary, but the goal of creating a “cardiac chain of survival” to increase survival rates is central to each community effort. Some common program elements include:

  • Increased public awareness
  • CPR training
  • AED distribution in schools, malls, municipal buildings, etc.
  • Advanced Life Support training
  • Secondary health measures supporting cardiovascular wellness
  • Implementation of an app that, among other functions, maps AED/EMT locations in the region

“Our Emergency Medical Services personnel are doing a great job in keeping our community safe,” said AED. “This program will further support our EMS’ exemplary efforts and further keep enhance the health of our Greater AED Community.”