Kyle Wittkop was presented a certificate of recognition from his employer and a letter of congratulations from the National Safety Council. (Left to right: Bill Flaherty, regional safety manager, Hatzel & Buehler, Inc. ; Kyle Wittkop, journeyman electrician, IBEW #269; Natacha Ricks, corporate safety coordinator, Hatzel & Buehler; Wes Howell, superintendent, Hatzel & Buehler, IBEW #269)

Kyle Wittkop, a union electrician and former firefighter, was walking through the cafeteria at work last March when he overheard someone say, “He’s still not breathing!”

“I looked over and saw a man attempting to give the Heimlich maneuver to someone who was choking,” Kyle explained. “I could tell why it wasn’t working. He wasn’t giving the abdominal thrusts hard enough.”

Kyle walked over to help. His co-workers knew Kyle was a former firefighter and that he had first aid training, and they were relieved that he offered to take over. One hard abdominal thrust and the food popped out. After confirming his co-worker could now breathe, Kyle went on his way.

This wasn’t the first time Kyle used his training to save someone from choking.

“About nine years ago, I heard my wife scream my name, and I came running,” Kyle recalled. “My 18-month old son was choking on a piece of apple. In just that short time, he was already turning blue. I knew what to do for infant choking. I put him over my arm and gave him back blows. The apple didn’t come out, and I realized I was not hitting him hard enough. It was tough to hit my son that hard – I didn’t want to hurt him – but I realized I had to. So I gave him a hard blow and the apple chunk flew out.”

Kyle recently renewed his first aid certification. He said it’s important for everyone to get first aid training, even if they’ve had it before.

“You need that refresher,” Kyle said. “First aid certification is one of those things that you want to have, even though you hope you will never have to use it.”

As a firefighter, a dad and a co-worker, Kyle has used his first aid training to save lives – and you can too.

Encourage your employer to sponsor first aid, CPR and AED trainings once a year and to have everyone in the company certify every two years. While many companies certify first responders, it’s important for everyone to have this training so they can treat people on and off the job. You can also call your local fire department and ask where you can find a local First Aid, CPR and AED class.

A quarter of all emergency room visits could be avoided with basic first aid and CPR skills. With training, you will have the knowledge and confidence to save a life.


  • Jenny Bezingue

    Content Producer

    the National Safety Council

    The National Safety Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate preventable deaths at work, in homes and communities, and on the road, through leadership, research, education and advocacy.