UConn Designated ‘HEARTSafe’ Campus

From left, UConn firefighter Benjamin Roper, UConn senior Justin Pedneault ’19 (NUR), and Raffaella Coler, director of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services. (Mike Enright/UConn Photo)
From left, UConn firefighter Benjamin Roper, UConn senior Justin Pedneault ’19 (NUR), and Raffaella Coler, director of the state Office of Emergency Medical Services. (Mike Enright/UConn Photo)

UConn has been officially named a “HEARTSafe Campus” – the first institution of higher education in the state of Connecticut to earn the designation.

The “HEARTSafe” program, which is coordinated by the Connecticut Department of Public Health and its Office of Emergency Medical Services, in collaboration with the American Heart Association, recognizes communities, workplaces, and now campuses, that improve the chances for individuals to survive a sudden cardiac arrest. The number of Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) and the amount of community members trained in CPR are key factors in determining the “HEARTSafe” designation.

A ceremony to confer the status on the University was held on Friday in McHugh Hall, near one of the hundreds of AEDs on the Storrs campus. There is now an AED within a three-minute round-trip walk from any spot on the Storrs and regional campuses, and at UConn Law. AEDs can be located by downloading and using an app called PulsePoint AED.

A “HEARTSafe Campus” road sign was unveiled at the ceremony, and several of these will soon be displayed at the various different campuses.

“We take public safety and public service very seriously here at UConn,” said Hans Rhynhart, assistant vice president of public safety and chief of police.

The naming of UConn as a “HEARTSafe Campus” was the conclusion of a dedicated and combined effort of the Office of Public Safety, which includes the school’s fire and police departments, and the student organization “UConn Rescue,” which brings together those interested in emergency medical service training.

The president of UConn Rescue, Justin Pedneault ’19 (NUR), has pursued this cause passionately on campus, together with firefighter Benjamin Roper. Pedneault is a Manchester, Connecticut, native, and joined a volunteer ambulance association in high school.

The two walked every floor of every UConn building in Storrs, Hartford, Stamford, Avery Point, Waterbury, and at the Law School to ensure that there would be an AED close enough to become “HEARTSafe.”

“This was something very important to me and it really started by getting the proper funding for it,” said Pedneault. “I am very grateful to the University for making this a priority.”

There are now about 135 new AEDS on the UConn campuses, including about 90 in Storrs. There are also 270 new medical supply kits, which include a tourniquet, wound dressing, and shears to stop bleeding during an emergency.

“UConn has shaped me as a person by providing an environment and culture that allowed me to run with my ideas,” said Pedneault, who graduates this month.

“I see the AED program as my legacy to UConn,” he added, “and if the deployed medical devices save just one person, all the time and effort I have devoted to this program was worthwhile.”