Joanne Pallotta | Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center correspondent
Should everyone be CPR certified? The answer to this question is a resounding YES!
“You can save someone’s life,” stresses Karen Whiting, a training specialist with the American Red Cross. “If someone can immediately jump in and give CPR, that will extend the person’s chances of surviving until advanced medical care arrives.”
Cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR, is a lifesaving procedure used in emergencies in which a person’s heart has become irregular or stopped. During this time, the chest of a person is compressed in order to keep oxygenated blood flowing throughout the body — especially to the heart, lungs, and brain.
“Every second counts,” emphasizes Whiting.
According to the Red Cross, 75 percent of cardiac arrests happen at home — making the procedure even more critical.
Who Can Be CPR Certified
While CPR is not hard, it is physical. There is no minimum age, but you need to be able to compress a chest two and half inches while remembering the steps for breaths, compressions, and numbers.
Whiting says 10 or 11 years of age is probably the minimum to become CPR certified.
The Red Cross offers two ways to become “CPR Certified.”
Classroom: There are 16 training sites across Massachusetts that offer CPR certification courses several times a month. Classroom time is two and a half to four hours long, and includes instruction as well as hands-on experience.
During this time, you’ll learn how to spot an emergency, what to do before giving care, and the role of CPR. You will also practice the techniques over and over under the watchful eye of an instructor.
“You will get enough repetition so that you will be able to respond in an emergency,” says Whiting.
After completing the course, you will be certified.
Web-based: If you can’t spend a few hours in a classroom, a convenient method of learning CPR is online. You can study the CPR curriculum as well as take quizzes and tests from home. But, you still need to come to a classroom to practice and complete the hands-on segment of the CPR course. The classroom part of this online method takes about one and a half to two and a half hours.
No Certification: If you physically cannot make the compressions, then you cannot be certified.
“While there are physical limitations,” Whiting says, “generally, we think everybody should learn it.”
There are non-certification classes called “Compression Only CPR” available to anyone as well.
There are two CPR techniques: hands-only and rescue breaths.
Hands-only: This technique involves continually doing chest compressions. The rate is about 100 compressions a minute.
Rescue breaths: This is a technique the Red Cross teaches. Thirty chest compressions are applied followed by two breaths — going back and forth in cycles. “The breaths are a little more tricky because you have to position the head correctly,” Whiting says, but adds that it is not hard to learn.
Why Learn CPR?
“It’s important to know CPR to aid anyone who needs emergency help,” stresses Whiting. “If you can save someone’s life, it’s worth it!”
The cost to become CPR Certified is anywhere from $70 to $110, depending on the components of the class. That certification lasts two years.