ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Teaching the steps to save lives is a process the Rock Island Arsenal Fire Department is focused on presenting Arsenal-wide. Since the installation of the new Automated Electronic Defibrillators (AED) in several buildings, Arsenal employees recognized a need for life-saving training.

"The most important aspect of these classes is that it gives the employees the knowledge and skills to utilize a defibrillator safely and effectively," said Sgt. 1st Class John McLaughlin, the senior medical noncommissioned officer for the Army Sustainment Command's Surgeon's Office.

The two-hour classes will enable employees to learn skills that could save lives in the workplace or elsewhere. One bit of advice offered by McLaughlin is to not let personal reservations prevent learning a life-saving procedure.

For the nine participants in the first morning training class on Jan. 31, it was an opportunity to learn the appropriate aid required in the first critical minutes while a person is suffering a cardiac arrest. The chance of surviving a heart attack outside a hospital setting increases with immediate hands-only CPR and an AED.

"If Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are performed within the first minute of cardiac arrest, the victim's odds of survival are 90 percent," said McLaughlin. "Every minute thereafter the odds of survival fall by 10 percent."

Each participant had different reasons for going to the training, ranging from wanting to learn a new skill to needing a refresher course.

"I've had to perform CPR before and was always looking for refreshers," said Dennis Donald, security specialist for the Provost Marshal Office with ASC. "We have AEDs around work and I wanted to know how to use them."

The benefits of learning life-saving skills include more than statistics -- confidence in the ability to save someone's life is another.

"My confidence level has skyrocketed," said Kevin Sack, quality assurance specialist, Logistics Civil Augmentation Program, ASC. "Before I would have been one of the people to stand and watch, but now I feel I can actively help people in need."

Some participants said the training exceeded their expectations.

"I thought it would only be about how to operate the AED machine," said Capt. Bonita Taplin, Materiel Integration Branch, Distribution Management Center, ASC. "This class surpassed my expectations by giving us the knowledge of how to react from start to finish if we were to see someone in need of help."

There were many important lessons to learn from the AED and CPR training classes, students participants said.

"The most import thing you can do to help a person is the chest compressions to the tune of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"," said Randall E. Mester, a financial analyst for the Requisitions Management Division in ASC. The song's tune assists in maintaining the number of compressions per minute.

According to Sack, the AED machines talks a person through the steps. The class confirmed that the machine would take care of guiding people in a calm manner.

"Everyone, and I mean everyone, should know how to perform CPR whether it's for a loved one or a stranger. You never know when it will be needed and for whom," said Mester.

For future classes, session dates and times will be published in TEDS (Total Employee Development System) and e-mails will be sent out by the surgeon's office. Training classes are held at RIA Fire Department.

According to McLaughlin, participants who complete the AED course and can become certified after taking the formal CPR course. Once certified, an annual renewal is suggested to keep current on CPR techniques.

Although the training is free, all personnel attending the classes need their supervisor's permission. The RIA Fire Department also provides more advanced American Heart Association CPR courses with a nominal fee to cover certification costs. Any personnel interested can inquire at the end of the AED and hands-only CPR class.