Nearly 3,000 students graduating each year from Washington, D.C., public and charter schools will now be trained in Hands-Only CPR.
The law was enacted last Saturday following completion of the 30-day Congressional review period. In D.C., legislation approved by the city council and mayor goes to the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate for approval before it can become law.
“It’s important to train high schoolers in CPR and AED use for the same reason it’s important to have anyone trained in these efforts: because it saves lives,” said D.C.
council member Kenyan McDuffie, who supported the legislation. “We looked around at the communities in the country that had the highest rates of survival for cardiac arrest and how they got there – and a big part of it is training folks in the community on CPR and proper AED use.”
Sarah Roque, the supervisory public health analyst for Washington D.C. Fire and EMS, said training students means there will be more responders ready to help people who suffer cardiac arrests.
“We want to train at least 50 percent of the D.C. population so you have a 50 percent chance of having someone around you who knows CPR,” said Roque, who will be working with schools to implement the CPR program.
Starting this school year, students in grades 9 to 12 must complete CPR training in at least one health class before graduation. Training will include practicing chest compressions and the use of an automated external defibrillator, or AED.
“High schoolers in D.C. have community service requirements, and they are very much in the community,” Roque said. “They’re in that really important space where they’re able to influence younger folks and older individuals. They can pass it on.”
The new law also calls for at least one AED to be placed in each public, charter and private D.C. school. Athletic staff, school nurses and others designated by the schools will be trained to use CPR and AEDs, which are portable devices available in a growing number of public places that deliver an electric shock to stop a chaotic heart rhythm and restore a normal beat.
The school CPR and AED program will be managed by the Washington D.C. Fire and EMS department. Its Hands On Heart CPR program has trained more than 11,000 community members in CPR and AEDs since launching a year ago, according to Roque.
About 40 people each hour have a cardiac arrest while not in a hospital, and about nine of 10 do not survive, according to American Heart Association statistics.
A recent AHA policy paper said comprehensive cardiac emergency response plans can help schools save more lives and should be required by state law. Receiving immediate bystander CPR can double or even triple a victim’s chances of survival, and a shock from a defibrillator within three to five minutes may increase survival as much as 50 percent to 70 percent, the policy said.
Washington, D.C., joins 34 states that have passed laws or adopted curriculum changes to require CPR training to graduate high school.