Firefighter/Paramedics Tyler Krueger (on the ladder) and Ross Oestreich hang the banner and wood heart on SPFD's Station 1, 1701 Franklin St., on Feb. 1. (Metro Wire photo)

County paramedics kick off third annual ‘Keep the Heart Red’ campaign

By Brandi Makuski

The Portage County Ambulance Service has launched its third annual  “Keep the Heart Red” campaign to celebrate American Heart Month.

The brainchild of Lt. Shane Westphal from SPFD, the program is similar to the Christmastime “Keep the Wreath Green” promotion, which draws attention to the dangers of structure fires.

Large wood hearts, adorned with red bulbs, will hang from fire departments in Stevens Point, Plover, and Amherst, the hubs of the county’s ambulance service, throughout February. For each cardiac arrest or heart attack reported by the service, a red bulb on the heart will be replaced with a black bulb.

The campaign is designed to bring attention to heart health, and hands-only CPR, which local fire departments actively promote in local schools, open houses, festivals, and elsewhere throughout the county.

While the program was launched by SPFD, it will cover all of Portage Co., according to Assistant EMS Chief Joe Gemza.

“Most cardiac events are preventable; eating well, exercise, you know, healthy living, and learning CPR and knowing where AEDs are located,” Gemza said on Thursday. “This is just a way to really highlight the importance of knowing how to prevent those events.”

SPFD will be sharing several videos and public education pieces throughout the month, featuring hands-only CPR, information on the PulsePoint gold app, and heart-healthy foods and activities. The videos can be found on the department’s social media, on the city’s website, and on YouTube.

According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of a hospital every year.

Gemza said during the 2023 campaign, Portage Co. medics responded to six cardiac events during February. For the entire year, medics responded to 106 cardiac events.