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The City Journals

Saving lives with your bare hands

Mar 13, 2018 05:12PM ● By Travis Barton

City Councilman Jake Fitisemanu Jr. practices hands-only CPR on a mannequin. The West Valley City Fire Department will be holding free classes on March 29, April 19 and May 10. (Travis Barton/City Journals)

For every minute that CPR is delayed, a victim’s chance of survival drops by 10 percent, Brian Larson, battalion chief for the medical division of the West Valley City Fire Department, told the West Valley City Council in early February. He also said nationally, bystanders will begin CPR about 40 percent of the time. In Utah, that rate drops to 20 percent. 

With statistics like those, it’s obvious why WVCFD is implementing a hands-only CPR campaign to educate the public. 

“We need people to not be afraid to perform CPR,” Larson said. 

Larson said they want residents to know that performing CPR does not require mouth-to-mouth contact, which might explain a person’s reluctance to step forward. He explained hands-only CPR requires two things: call 911 and push hard and fast on the victim’s chest. 

“If they aren’t receiving it prior to ambulance arrival, their chances of surviving are slim to none,” said the battalion chief. 

Continuously doing compressions on a person’s chest, Larson said, is extremely helpful with an ambulance expected to arrive within six minutes. 

“Some CPR is better than no CPR at all. We’re just trying to remove the fear,” he explained. The fire department is hopeful that a less complex, more simplified process will increase a person’s confidence to perform the potentially life-saving technique. 

Part of the campaign includes three versions (short, medium and long length) of a lighthearted, Utah focused video demonstrating how hands-only CPR works and why it’s critical. 

Larson said they wanted the video to be interesting, attention grabbing and memorable. 

“If it’s something that you’re able to remember, you’re more likely to perform CPR and we think that’s going to help improve some of the cardiac arrest results within our city,” Larson said.  

The fire department will be offering free hands-on classes on March 29, April 19 and May 10 at 6, 6:30 and 7 p.m. each night. Register online at February 15 was the first class. 

Classes feature mannequins for realistic training. At a demonstration for the West Valley City mayor and city council, officials practiced the promoted technique that features pushing hard and fast in the center of the chest (100-120 beats per minute to the tune of “Stayin’ Alive”), compressions that should be just over two inches down, allowing the chest to fully recoil and maintaining continuity with a partner when the other gets tired. 

“They can get in and feel what it really feels like to do CPR and get their timing down,” Larson said. 

The class will also go over recognizing when CPR should be administered, like if the victim is unresponsive or unable to breathe.

Larson added the fire department tracks whether bystander CPR was performed on a cardiac arrest call. 

“We’re hoping that when we look next year we’ll see an improvement in that,” he said. “And that’s what this program is about.”