Calif. Crews Teach Hands-only CPR to Citizens

June 9, 2013
Citizens learned CPR at 20 sites around Marin County, Calif., during the fourth annual Sidewalk CPR training.

June 09--"Push Hard and Fast" sounds like the title of a new Vin Diesel action movie. On Saturday, it was one of the life-saving techniques emblazoned on the T-shirts of the more than 100 volunteers who took part in the fourth annual Sidewalk CPR training, "Don't Miss a Beat," organized by Marin County Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

At 20 sites around Marin, from Vista Point to Tomales, people were being trained in the relatively new "Hands-Only CPR," which involves pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest of someone who has collapsed from cardiac arrest. If begun immediately, it more than doubles their chances of survival. Developed in 2009, it doesn't require mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, easing commonly-held fears of contracting a disease.

"It has been found to be just as effective as conventional CPR for people who go into cardiac arrest," explained Battalion Chief Mike Giannini of the Marin County Fire Department, noting that the first thing you should do as a bystander is call 911.

"Then you should roll them on their back and do hands-only CPR, pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest until help arrives," he said at the EMS booth at the Novato Art, Wine and Music Festival, where festival-goers practiced on Resusci Anne CPR training mannequins. Appropriately enough, they were pushing to the beat of a boom box playing the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive."

"People are afraid that they may hurt the person," Gianinni said. "But

the reality is that you can't hurt them if they're in cardiac arrest. All you can do is help them."

After a friend talked her into trying it, Elayne Miller of Novato, who's in her 70s, learned to do hands-only CPR on the mannequin in a matter of minutes.

"I've always been terrified to do this," she said. "I shied away because I didn't think I could do it. And I felt guilty about that. Now I know it can be done. And I would certainly want someone to do it on me."

At the same time, 12-year-old Dean Griffin was being shown how to place his hands on the mannequin's chest, keep his arms straight and push hard and fast.

"I know what to do now," he said. "And they say it will work"

In Marin County, more than 200 people a year suffer cardiac arrest, according to Sidewalk CPR organizer Karrie Groves, a nurse with Marin EMS.

"We actually have a pretty good survival rate, better than most of the nation," she said. "Last year, 22 percent of our patients survived. The national average is eight to ten percent, so we're way ahead of the curve. But we want more and more people who are prepared to do bystander CPR."

In the last three years, 3,000 people have been trained by Marin EMS. Saturday's goal was to train another 2,000. Volunteers included paramedics, EMTs, park rangers, hospital employees, firefighters, private ambulance operators and members of the Marin Medical Reserve Corps.

"Right now if you collapse from cardiac arrest, about a third of the time you'll have a bystander perform CPR," Battalion Chief Gianinni said. "Last year, 36 percent of our cardiac arrests had a bystander do CPR. We want that number to keep going up and up over the next several years."

Contact Paul Liberatore via email at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @LibLarge. Read his blog at

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Copyright 2013 - The Marin Independent Journal, Novato, Calif.

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