First responders are trained to do their jobs with smiles on their faces, even though they are often meeting people during some of the worst moments of their life, said Robert Swenarski, the emergency preparedness administrator at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville.

A holiday life-saving skills event gave people the chance to show the positive attitude is appreciated.

The hospital hosts EMS training events four times a year, said Jason Steinke, director of emergency medical services. This event was special because family members and a certain North Pole native were also on hand.

First responders see increases in suicides and deep skin wounds during the holiday season, Steinke said.

Cooking-related accidents, slips and falls are common around the holidays, Steinke said.

As adults brushed up on tourniquet application, CPR and airway insertion, children had the chance to decorate cookies, visit with Santa and learn how they can help save a life, too.

Steinke and Swenarski provided tips for how families can stay prepared for emergency situations during the holidays and year-round.

1. Communicate with each other: While it might be a difficult or scary conversation to have, parents and guardians need to talk to children about what to do in case of an emergency. One such discussion can be to determine a safe meeting place in case of evacuation, Swenarski said.

2. Make kids part of the plan: Including children in emergency planning can make emergency situations seem less scary. If children know where equipment is located and have a plan to follow, they will feel confident and equipped.

3. Teach kids the basics: Children should know their name, address, phone number and how to call 911.

4. Clear a path: Walkways should be kept clear of snow and debris to allow first responders easy access into homes.

5. Make sure your address is visible: House numbers should be visible from the street. First responders can struggle to find numbers that are covered or printed on mailboxes, Swenarski said.

6. Learn CPR: Performing compression-only CPR before first responders arrive can make a difference. Family members, including children, can learn how and potentially save a life.

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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