In a medical emergency, Teri Lyn Vik knows minutes — even seconds — count.
The Vancouver resident spent 17 years as a 911 operator and dispatcher in Portland. She developed a keen sense of what it takes to get someone help in critical moments of need.
Vik believes it’s important to have more people trained in basic first aid and CPR. And she sees at least one noticeable gap: public transportation.
C-Tran, for example, does not require its bus drivers to have CPR training. Neither does TriMet, Oregon’s largest transit agency. Vik believes that should change.
“I just think at a very minimum there should be some kind of course, so that drivers are better prepared,” Vik said.
C-Tran used to offer CPR training to its employees, but never made it a requirement for drivers, said Director of Operations Jim Quintana. The program was geared more toward people who worked in the transit agency’s Vancouver headquarters, he said.
The in-house training was discontinued years ago as C-Tran tightened its belt and re-evaluated what it could and could not devote resources to, Quintana said. Budgetary considerations were a big part of the decision, he added.
As for drivers, Quintana noted that they already shoulder a lot of responsibility in their day-to-day job. Requiring first aid or CPR training would add another layer of responsibility to an already demanding job, he said.
“There’s so many things for our operators to know,” Quintana said. “It’s a very complicated job.”
If a driver encounters a medical emergency, or is involved in a crash that results in an injury, he or she is asked to call first — immediately get in touch with dispatch and get an emergency crew rolling if necessary, Quintana said. But if a driver has first-aid training, C-Tran won’t tell that person not to help if they’re in a position to do so, he said.
“We wouldn’t discourage somebody from providing a level of care that you’re comfortable with,” Quintana said.
TriMet also does not include CPR or first aid as part of its driver training, said spokeswoman Roberta Altstadt. The agency follows a similar protocol as C-Tran when an incident occurs.
“If an operator encounters a rider or member of the public in need of immediate medical assistance, a priority call is made, by means of an on-board radio system, to our Operations Command Center, which has a direct line to 9-1-1,” Altstadt said in an email.
That’s not always good enough, Vik said. Starting CPR within 10 seconds can mean the difference between life and death, she said. Emergency responders may arrive within minutes, but there’s often a crucial window of time before then, she said.
“If we can keep your heart pumping until you get to a hospital … you have a very good chance of success,” Vik said.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes sudden cardiac arrest, which is a very real risk as the population — and public transportation users — ages, Vik said. C-Tran and other transit agencies also serve a sizable number of disabled riders, she added.
Vik has discussed the issue of CPR training with C-Tran officials recently. It’s unclear what, if anything, will come from her efforts.
Vik encouraged anyone to get CPR training. Among the organizations that offer classes locally is the American Red Cross of Southwest Washington.
“CPR, really, it’s so easy,” Vik said. “You just need to push.”