- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

D.C. fire officials are trying to verify that CPR certification cards issued at the training academy are legitimate amid charges that more than 100 cards were given to providers and instructors who never took the course.

Austin A. Anderson of the D.C. Office of the Inspector General yesterday confirmed that an investigation into the matter is ongoing but declined to provide specifics, saying it is a “pending matter.”

Fire department spokesman Alan Etter said that fire officials could not comment on the specifics of the investigation.

“We are aware that the inspector general is looking into this, and we are cooperating fully,” Mr. Etter said.

As many as a half-dozen instructors may have been involved in giving the cards to emergency medical technicians (EMTs), instructors and members of the public who did not complete course requirements.

However, sources close to the investigation said that the problem could be more widespread if it is determined that instructors taught CPR courses without proper certification.

The CPR course is an eight-hour class that is required for all firefighters and EMTs. Instructors must complete a 16-hour class.

The worst-case scenarios include the American Heart Association revoking the department’s training-site status and every one of the fire department’s 1,900 members having to retake the course.

A representative from the American Heart Association did not return a call for comment yesterday.

Sources said that the probe has been going on for about two months and is focusing on CPR cards issued in the last two years.

It could not be determined whether officials suspect the cards were given away or sold.

Investigators have seized several computers from Emergency Medical Services training staffers as part of the probe.

Mr. Etter said that training officials have a tracking system in place to determine whether cardholders earned their certification legitimately. Training officials keep hard copies of class sign-in sheets and a record of the grades that were given to students, he said.

But record keeping at the training academy was called into question as recently as June, when Fire Chief Adrian H. Thompson suspended and reassigned the director of the training academy and the EMS training coordinator after an investigation into the death of journalist David E. Rosenbaum in January.

In the inspector general’s report on that investigation, it was revealed that the firefighter in charge of the crew that responded to the medical call did not have the required CPR training.

Chief Thompson said that training officials should have been aware of the status of the certifications.

“There were some things the training academy found out that, maybe in terms of people having proper certifications, they didn’t have that kind of certification when they should have had it and they didn’t tell us at the top,” Chief Thompson said at the time.

Kenneth Lyons, president of the union that represents the city’s civilian emergency medical personnel, said that a former instructor at the training academy made the complaint to the inspector general’s office after witnessing irregularities in the testing process.

“This is serious,” Mr. Lyons said. “They have made no commitment to oversight and compliance. The community cannot rely on this agency as it is currently structured.”

The future of EMS was featured prominently in the recent mayoral campaign.

D.C. Council member Adrian M. Fenty, the Democratic mayoral nominee, has pledged to remove EMS from the administration of the fire department and to dismiss the fire chief, if he is elected.

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