Jim Mallory: CPR: What is it, and Why do I Need to Know it?


Suppose you come home and find a family member laying on the floor, not breathing.  Would you know what to do?

You would if you had learned CPR. If you don’t know CPR, you would have grabbed the phone, called 9-1-1 and waited for the ambulance to arrive. That could be seven to ten minutes of agonizing waiting.

CPR? What’s that, you say? CPR stands for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. It’s a way to get someone’s heart started following a heart attack. If you know CPR you CAN save someone’s life.ba

Anyone from pre-teens to senior citizens can and do learn CPR and save a life.  Here in Richmond, many of the members of the Community Emergency Response Teams have learned and become certified in CPR. The certification is good for two years.

Trainer Guy is a local company that teaches CPR, First Aid, use of an AED and various other disaster preparedness and response classes. Some are free, others have a small charge.

“It’s really not difficult to learn,” said Trainer Guy assistant trainer Roseanne Allen. “We teach people of all ages all the time, all over northern California.”

AEDs are the latest addition to the CPR bag of tools. It is a battery-operated device, that, as soon as its two pads are placed on the victims chest, evaluates the heart’s rhythm and, if appropriate, shocks the heart back into a normal rate. The book-sized device does all this in a matter of seconds. 

Once the victim has been shocked, the AED will recheck his or her heart every two minutes and tell you by voice command if more shocks are needed. AEDs are now found in many buildings such as libraries and government offices as well as more and more private businesses.

Successful completion of a CPR course, which earns you a two year certification card, takes three or four hours, depending on whether it also includes first aid and/or other lifesaving skills or equipment.  

CPR was first used in the 1700’s to help drowning victims. It really came into its own as a rescue technique in the 1950’s when the U.S. military adopted the technique to revive victims who were not breathing. 

CPR has two steps. Once you know the scene is safe and are sure the victim is not breathing, you perform chest compressions. Compressions are performed by kneeling next to the victim, locking your fingers, and pushing down fast and hard in the middle of the chest. After performing 30 compressions you administer two breaths of about one second each, then do another 30 compressions.  

Continue doing 30 compressions and two breaths until one of the following happens: the victim starts to breath on his or her own, paramedics arrive and take over, the scene becomes unsafe or you are exhausted and can’t continue. Remember, once you begin CPR, you are taking responsibility for that person and need to continue providing assistance until relieved. 

Beyond knowing how to save the life of a family member, friend or loved one, there are other reasons to learn the skill. Many employers are now requiring that job applicants know CPR, and all health care workers such as nurses, day care workers, Certified Nursing Assistants, paramedics, EMTs and dental assistants are required to know CPR.

Allen said her company teaches classes with from five to 25 students regularly. They also conduct one-on-one training if the student can’t attend a group class.

There is another form of CPR that only uses compressions. You don’t have to give breaths to the victim. You can’t get certified if you only learn that technique, which is called Citizen CPR or Compression-only CPR. It was introduced to encourage people to take CPR training who didn’t want to have mouth to mouth contact with the victim. 

Several national organizations, such as the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, American Health & Safety Institute and American CPR all offer CPR classes taught by certified instructors. In some cities it’s offered by the local fire department, although that’s not true in Richmond. 

By, Jim Mallory Certified CPR Instructor

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