ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa — The Iowa Economic Development Authority announced that three $50,000 grants have been awarded to Calhoun County Public Health, Cass County Board of Health, and Van Buren County Hospital to test an innovative program aimed at decreasing emergency response times in rural Iowa.

The grants were announced through Governor Kim Reynolds, and Lt. Governor Adam Gregg. The total grant funding of $150,000 was made available through the Governor’s Empower Rural Iowa Initiative.  

The program was promoted by Lt. Governor Gregg after he saw a similar system in Israel while on a trade mission there. The program is called Iowa United First Aid.

The Israeli model uses technology to crowdsource nearby volunteer emergency responders on a phone app. It has driven response times down to an average of 90 seconds in cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and to three minutes on average across the country. 

In Calhoun County the $50,000 will be used for training and for equipment for the volunteers.

“The training itself is not gonna be that expensive, everybody’s getting an AED,” said Kerri Hull, the retired Calhoun County Emergency Services Manager, who is coming back in to help with this project. “We have to get the tourniquets and the kits for them to carry the bags to carry them in, we have to keep the communication going.”

In Rockwell City there is excitement after the grant announcement.

“Really exciting to make history in Iowa, nothing like this has been done before, at least in Iowa,” said Luke Winkelman, the Interim Calhoun County emergency Services Manager. “We have the quintessential Iowa nice population and a community full of people who do you want to help, they may just be short on training, short on supplies, or short on time, and so this program will reduce the burden on our volunteers and all three of those areas.”

In Iowa, the program will equip trained volunteers with an app on their phone that delivers 911 dispatch alerts when an emergency occurs in their vicinity. Volunteers will be trained and supplied with the materials and equipment necessary to perform first aid, bleeding control, CPR, and use of an automated external defibrillator (AED). The goal is for volunteers to quickly respond to emergencies in nearby areas and stabilize victims while an ambulance is on the way, decreasing the amount of time it takes to receive lifesaving assistance.

“This model holds real promise in using technology and innovation to solve a serious challenge facing our rural communities,” said Lt. Governor Gregg. “I appreciate and commend the applicants who have stepped up to lead the way.”