Hands-only CPR can help firefighters save lives

By NANCY HICKS / Lincoln Journal Star

Lincoln Fire and Rescue workers would like to triple the number of people who survive sudden cardiac arrest — but it will take the help of citizens.

Last year, 21 of the 169 victims of sudden cardiac arrest who medics raced to hospitals survived.

If private citizens used “hands-only” CPR during those few minutes between the call to 911 and the arrival of medics, 40 to 60 additional survivors could walk out of the hospital each year, said Assistant Fire Chief Pat Borer.

“We’d give that many more people a second chance,” he said.

The procedure is simple. First call 911, then push on the middle of the victim’s chest, fast, with both hands.

No mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. No hours of CPR training.

But people still need to know about the hands-only technique.

Thanks to a $15,000 education grant from the Community Health Endowment, Lincoln residents will learn more about the easy steps for hands-only CPR over the next year.

In addition to the grant, that comes from funds available from the sale of city-owned Lincoln General Hospital, the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department and Lincoln Fire and Rescue are each contributing $4,000 to the educational effort, said Health Department Director Judy Halstead.

Currently, less than a third of people who need CPR have someone around willing to do it, said Alex McKiernan, project coordinator.

Because the hands-only method is simple and does not include mouth-to-mouth, more people are willing to perform it on people they don’t know, he said.

Professionals who use CPR as part of their work will continue to be certified in the traditional method.

Hands-only CPR is an adults-only technique — performed by adults on adults — and only should be used when you actually see the person collapse and know the circumstances.

The first step is to call 911, McKiernan said, because hands-only CPR without professional care later is not worth it.

The hands-only CPR technique gives professional rescuers a leg up and improves their chances of success, he said.

Research shows the heart needs to be shocked back into rhythm after a sudden arrest, and using compressions has been successful, said Joan Anderson, executive director of the Lancaster County Medical Society.

But it has to be done quickly, and it has to be followed by medical intervention.

Hands-only CPR may not be so effective in a rural setting, but in Lincoln it can be lifesaving, she said.

This summer, McKiernan will be looking for businesses and agencies willing to be part of an outreach program.

He hopes to take the hands-only CPR demonstration to bigger audiences this fall — high school assemblies, company training sessions, perhaps even on the screen at a Cornhusker football game.

You can reach McKiernan at 402-441-6264 or amckiernan@lincoln.ne.gov.



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