Life-Saving Skills

In 2009, an elderly guest suffered a heart attack at the bar in Dallas SpeedZone, in Dallas, Texas. Without hesitation, the general manager on duty performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the guest, an action that likely saved the guest’s life.

Kim O’Con, the facility’s operations human resources manager, trained the GM in CPR, as she has done for countless other staff members. Since 1997, the family entertainment center (FEC) has offered CPR training to its management team, supervisors, shop foremen, maintenance personal, and select frontline employees.

CPR may not be a skill that FEC staff will need to use every day, “but all it takes is one time and you’re not prepared,” O’Con says. “Someone doesn’t make it because you didn’t know what to do.”

Be Prepared
Rich Powers worries that many facilities may be ill-prepared for situations where a guest is no longer breathing or his or her heart has stopped.

“A high percentage of FECs I go to don’t have people trained in CPR,” warns Powers, senior vice president of risk services for American Specialty Insurance and Risk Services Inc. in Roanoke, Indiana. “And very, very few have AEDs (automated external defibrillators) or an AED program. They don’t appreciate what could happen.”

Rick Iceberg, owner of C.J. Barrymore’s in Clinton Township, Michigan, sees a similar trend as well. While larger FECs might have a better handle on CPR and AED training, smaller facilities still need to work on it, he says.

“It’s one more form of reinvestment in your company, and it impacts the whole industry,” says Iceberg, a member of the IAAPA FEC committee. “If one FEC looks bad, then we all look bad. You’re doing things for the good of everyone.”

At C.J. Barrymore’s, 30 core team members are CPR certified, and six managers have undergone AED training. A portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart, an AED can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume in the heart in sudden cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association explains.

Iceberg owns two AEDs: one centrally located by the main service counter and the other in the golf area since a large number of seniors play in that area. At the first sign of a guest in trouble, a radio call goes out and the AED is raced to the scene.

Barrymore’s has not needed to use the AED yet, although the FEC receives the distress call three or four times a year. “Usually, it’s heat exhaustion, but you want to be prepared,” Iceberg says.

At Boomers! in Modesto, California, management also puts a strong emphasis on planning for the worst, says GM Misty Romero. She is CPR trained along with eight other staffers.

“It gives them a sense of pride and ownership in how to handle certain situations,” she says, “and it gives them more value in their jobs.”

No Excuses
One popular misconception Powers hears is that FECs may be liable if they have an AED or CPR-trained staff and cannot save a person’s life.

“The opposite may be true,” says Powers, who used to be a paramedic. “I would argue that there may be more liability if you don’t have people trained in CPR and don’t have an AED program.”

FEC owners and managers also should realize that CPR and AEDs are effective and fairly simple to learn.

“A first grader can do it—they’re almost dummy proof,” he says of the AED device, which has become a standard piece of equipment at shopping malls, stadiums, arenas, airports, high schools, and many other places that attract a large number of people. “However, FECs are still going to want to have people on staff trained and certified to do it.”

Just keep in mind, most states have a requirement for medical oversight to purchase an AED. “Parks should not be intimidated at all by this,” Powers notes. When you purchase an AED (which generally costs around $1,500), the manufacturer or local emergency medical services can offer assistance through the process.

CPR can keep oxygenated blood flowing to the brain and other vital organs until more definitive medical treatment can restore a normal heart rhythm, the Mayo Clinic explains.

And it has become easier to learn. The American Heart Association stated that “hands-only” CPR, where a bystander can provide high-quality chest compressions by pushing hard and fast in the middle of the victim’s chest, can more than double or triple a person’s chances of survival. (For more info, visit Yet, the organization notes that conventional CPR that includes mouth-to-mouth breathing still may provide more benefit than hands-only CPR.

FECs have no excuses when it comes to CPR and AED training, O’Con says. “The hardest thing is to get people to overcome their own fears.”

Once they do that, they have a lifelong skill that goes well beyond their FEC’s walls. O’Con, for example, successfully performed CPR at a family function.

“You can save a life,” she says. “It’s a feeling of goodwill that you will never forget.”

Contact Contributing Editor Mike Bederka at


To find a CPR and/or AED course near you, visit the websites of the American Heart Association ( or the Red Cross ( Or contact your local hospital or police or fire department.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is an emergency procedure for a person whose heart has stopped or someone no longer breathing. CPR can maintain circulation and breathing until emergency medical help arrives.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is a lightweight, portable device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The shock can stop an irregular rhythm and allow a normal rhythm to resume in the heart in sudden cardiac arrest.