"This award shows that we are taking extra steps to protect our citizens," Mayor Fred Cavanaugh said. "Safety is our No. 1 priority in Aiken, because if we are not safe in our city then all the other things we do don't make much difference."
As first responders, officers have more than basic first-aid skills but less than what is required by the state emergency medical technician course.
According to the South Carolina Municipal Association, which presented the award, most police officers have first-aid training, but no other South Carolina city requires all patrol officers to be nationally certified first responders.
"When an emergency call comes in police officers are already nearby, patrolling neighborhoods. They can arrive within one to five minutes. These officers can help in the critical first minutes of a medical emergency, armed with their training and the medical equipment they carry in their patrol cars," the award citation reads.
To become a nationally certified first responder, an officer must pass a 32-hour course in addition to eight hours for CPR certification. The officers also must know how to use an automated defibrillator and they must learn the basics of blood-borne pathogens.
Certified officers also must pass an annual refresher course.
Chief Pete Frommer said the decision to train officers as first responders was made because public safety began to see an increase in medical calls.
First-responder training allows officers to administer life-saving care before an ambulance arrives -- an important skill in a city with a large retiree population.
Officers are equipped with defibrillators, oxygen tanks and an emergency kit that contains items such as a stethoscope, bandages, a blood pressure cuff and an obstetrics kit.
Reach Michelle Guffey at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110, or firstname.lastname@example.org.