Steve Hess, retiring deputy fire chief of BWI Airport, recognized as Heartsaver Hero

BALTIMORE – The American Heart Association of Greater Maryland today presented Steve Hess, the retiring deputy fire chief for BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department, with a Heartsaver Hero Award.

In his role at the airport, Hess, who is retiring at the end of March, has been a tireless advocate in advancing the American Heart Association’s mission of longer and healthier lives.

Heartsaver Hero award presented to Steve Hess, retiring deputy fire chief of the BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department.

“When I think of a hero, I think of someone who runs toward danger, and in this case, I think of someone who runs toward a problem. Steve Hess has demonstrated his ability to step back and say ‘how do we solve this problem?’,” Tracy Brazelton, Executive Director of the American Heart Association of Baltimore & Greater Maryland said when presenting the award.

Hess cleared the runway to place an American Heart Association-branded hands-only CPR kiosk, supported locally by Amerigroup, in the Southwest terminal of the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood-Marshall Airport, she said.

“When we first placed it, it was an innovative idea that a few select cities across the country were embracing,” Brazelton said. “What we didn’t know was when we placed that kiosk here it was going to be among the busiest in the nation.”

More than 25,000 people have been trained in hands-only CPR through the kiosk since it went online in 2016. Users receive instructions from a video screen, practice CPR on an attached mannequin and take a 30-second CPR test. The system offers feedback on depth and rate of chest compressions and correct hand placement.

“We’ll never know how many lives that has saved; someone refreshed their skills, someone got inspired to learn CPR, or inspired a loved one or a coworker to learn CPR. It’s a ripple effect, you don’t know how many people it’s going to reach,” Brazelton added.

BWI Heartsavers
Steve Hess, Deputy Fire Chief of BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Department, talks about an American Heart Association Hands-only CPR Training Kiosk, supported by Amerigroup, that is located near Gate B7 of the airport.

Hess has also played a big role in emergency response at the airport, Brazelton said.

“What we’ve come to realize is that BWI is one of the safest places in the Baltimore area if you’re going to have a cardiac arrest if you’re outside of the hospital,” she said. “About 350,000 people every year have an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and on average only about 10% of people survive. In a six-month period at BWI from the middle to end of last year, there was 100% survival.

“That is really remarkable and a testament to the plans, practice and training in place. You’ve got a safety net for your travelers.”

In November, 16 members of the BWI Airport’s Fire and Rescue Department, four officers from the Maryland Transportation Authority Police and a bystander were recognized for their quick action in recent months that saved the lives of three people.

In each of the three saves, which occurred in the months of July, August and November of 2021, emergency crews were contacted immediately, and high-quality CPR was administered within one minute of collapse by a bystander in the vicinity who was a member of the traveling public, said BWI Airport Fire & Rescue Division Chief Chad Packard, who will be stepping into Hess’s role.