Heart Safe Richland community initiative offers free Hands-Only CPR classes

RICHLAND, Wash. — Over the years, CPR techniques have changed. According to paramedics at the Richland Fire & Emergency Services Department (RF&ES) and the American Heart Association (AHA), you no longer need to give mouth to mouth but use Hands-Only CPR.  

Providing the community with these life-saving tools and creating heart-safe campuses in and around the City of Richland is the continued goal of RF&ES. The department offers free Hands-Only CPR classes through their Heart Safe Richland program. 

Josh Smith, a Fire Captain and Paramedic with the Richland Fire and Emergency Services, said the program curriculum is “designed by data-driven material” produced after extensive communication with dispatchers, hospitals, and the community.

“This is a community initiative. This is where businesses, HOAs, and churches can take ownership of cardiac arrest survival and understand that they actually have a much larger role to play in this than they think,” said Smith. 

Why Hands-Only CPR?

Screen Shot 2022 02 25 At 30635 AmRF&ES said their EMS teams work to arrive at a scene for an emergency in four to six minutes from being dispatched, but Smith said other factors could add additional time. 

“When you breakdown the actual timing: from the time you recognize someone is in cardiac arrest, they’re unconscious, unresponsive, not breathing normally; you call 911; we’re dispatched, typically around 30 seconds; and then we respond to your location; it’s probably closer to six to eight minutes,” said Smith.

Those six to eight minutes could mean the difference between life and death. Smith said that if you start Hands-Only CPR, you circulate oxygen through the blood to the brain and other organs, buying that patient time for EMS to arrive and increasing their chances of remaining neurologically intact. 

“The most beneficial thing of Hands-Only CPR is really preserving the brain function. We want people not just to survive cardiac arrest, but we want neurologically intact survivors. People who can return to their loved ones, 30, 60, 90 days down the road, and they don’t have any deficits,” said Smith. 

The American Heart Association said, “Hands-Only CPR is as effective in the first few minutes as conventional CPR.”

Smith said Hands-Only CPR is also better than conventional CPR for those not in a health care role. Approximately 70% of cardiac arrests occur inside the home, making it a challenge if you don’t have the resources to provide conventional CPR adequately, said Smith. Traditional CPR requires advanced techniques to give breath and compressions and it can become extremely taxing if you find yourself alone administering CPR. 

READ: Prevent heart disease and stroke by learning how to ‘Reclaim Your Rhythm’

How does the Heart Safe Richland program work?

Screen Shot 2022 02 25 At 30554 Am“We want people to take ownership and understand that they can really help us save a life and not just save a life, but enhance the quality of life throughout our city.” – Josh Smith, Fire Captain and Paramedic.

Heart Safe Richland is a public education initiative designed to increase survival rates from cardiac arrest in the community. Richland Fire & Emergency Services offers their Hands-Only CPR for free for all businesses, schools, clubs, churches, HOAs, and any group that wants to become a heart-safe campus. Smith said their Heart Safe Richland program focuses on three key points. 

      1. Recognizing Cardiac Arrest

Paramedics said that people don’t often recognize cardiac arrest; they think it’s a seizure or something else.

Smith said when a patient goes into cardiac arrest they will probably not lie still after they fall down. “They’re going to seize in some instances, they might be twitching globally or just in one area of their body, and they’re going to gasp for respirations. People are not expecting that,” said Smith.

       2. Expose them to the Emotional Barriers they Have to Overcome 

“The more barriers we can limit in our class, that’s the goal. If you already know what it looks like and you already know what the dispatcher sounds like, you act faster, and that’s what we need,” said Smith.

In order to fully prepare participants for the realities they will face, Smith said they show videos of both a young and older person experiencing cardiac arrest. “That might sound traumatizing; however, we’ve received nothing but positive feedback from the attendees of our classes. Therefore it’s not the first time they’ve seen it so they can recognize it faster, and we begin compressions faster,” said Smith.

Smith also said some people have never called 911 before, so it can be stressful, especially when a loved one is involved. During the class, Smith said instructors share audio of actual live 911 calls to help prepare people when they make the call.

“They know they will not be instructed to breathe for the patient, so therefore, they can feel comfortable starting compressions sooner than later. So they can call 911 while they’re already providing compressions,” said Smith. 

     3. High-quality Hands-Only CPR (and AED Training)


How to Schedule a Class?

The Hands-Only CPR class can take 30 minutes to an hour and serve up to 65 people, but Smith said the team is flexible. He said if your team only had 20 minutes, the instructors would make it work. Smith also said classes can be held at the place of business or hosted at the fire station.

The Heart Safe Richland is funded through an expanded program budget and generous donations from community members and businesses, according to RF&ES. 

To book a class and learn more, visit www.HeartSafeRichland.com.

RELATED: 88% of cardiac arrests happen at home; learn Hands-Only CPR to save live

What are the goals for 2022?

Richland Fire & Emergency Services said they are focused on where they can add the most value to the community. After 20 years in the fire service and seven years with RF&ES, Smith said he’s never had the opportunity to pull somebody out of a burning building. “We have to be good at it. But it doesn’t happen every day. We encountered in Richland 60 out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in 2020, we had 58 in 2021,” said Smith. 

According to statistics RF&ES said nationwide, survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is 7% to 10% annually. In 2020, Smith said RF&ES reached 24% neurologically intact survival within the City of Richland, but they want better results and their goal for 2022 is 35%.

Smith said Heart Safe Richland is a lifelong initiative that will take years to continue growing and empowering people to learn life-saving skills. 

“At the end of the day, it’s not always going to work out because sometimes it just happens. However, we know that this is a worthwhile endeavor and so funding or anything that comes along, we’ll overcome it,” said Smith.