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Longboat Key Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009 10 years ago

First response

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

Former Longboat Key Fire Chief Julius Halas thanked three people when he gave the fire marshal’s report July 19, at the Florida Fire Chiefs conference, in Fort Lauderdale. He thanked his deputy for helping him to transition into his role as director of the Florida Division of the State Fire Marshal. He thanked Richard Dickerson, who took over his position as Longboat Key Fire Rescue chief. And he thanked his good friend, Lew Simon, president of the Longboat Key Fire Rescue Volunteer Department.

“You did it again,” Simon said as Halas returned to his seat. “You embarrassed the hell out of me.”

Actually, that was just the beginning. Approximately five minutes later, Florida Fire Chiefs Association President Nat Ippolito got up to announce the Distinguished Service Award. It’s an honor that isn’t presented every year, but, instead, only when association officials feel they have a worthy nominee.

That’s when Simon heard Ippolito call his name.

“It just blew my mind,” Simon said.

He was so surprised that he still doesn’t remember much of Ippolito’s speech.

Simon says he’s normally not big on recognition. But, in this case, he says it’s a good thing because it draws attention to CPR and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs), which can be used to shock a person’s heart back into rhythm. It also creates awareness about Neighbors Saving Neighbors, a program Simon founded that notifies trained civilians when someone in their community goes into cardiac arrest.

Simon has spent the past 10 years encouraging condominiums to buy AEDs. In 1998, he became president of the board of The Sanctuary and convinced his board to buy an AED. Simon, who is now a resident of The Villages, continued to push for AEDs at condominiums throughout Longboat Key.

Today, the Key has 120 AEDs — more per capita than any other community in the country.

“For an island this small, that’s remarkable,” Dickerson said.

At the conference, Simon spoke about Neighbors Saving Neighbors the day before he received the award.
He says the program is integral to saving lives, enabling trained civilians to arrive before emergency-medical technicians by notifying them through a pager system tied to 911.

The program is now in place throughout Longboat Key, along with eight communities in The Villages and six communities in Marion County.

“Not only do we have a system,” Simon said, “but we know it works.”

Fire officials agree.

In a letter dated May 1, Halas’ last day as Longboat Key Fire Rescue chief, both Halas and Dickerson signed the letter that described the Neighbors Saving Neighbors program.

“This system has already proven to be extremely successful,” it said. “We would like to see Mr. Simon recognized for his efforts in CPR/AED training and implementing this Neighbors Saving Neighbors program.”

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