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DOWNTOWN — Santa Monica firefighters are hoping residents can spare five minutes to save a life.

The department is participating in a regional effort to train citizens in hands-only CPR. The free, public, drop-in training will be held from 12 – 4 p.m. on June 5 at Santa Monica Place, in the central plaza. Interested residents can stop-by anytime during the event for a brief instruction from a paramedic. Local training will also be provided by the UCLA Medical Center at 1245 16th Street from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Organizers said the lessons are vital to saving lives given how few individuals currently survive heart attacks outside a hospital environment. Information provided by the American Heart Association said there are about 300,000 out-of-hospital heart attacks a year and less than 8 percent of people survive.

“Citizen CPR is a fast-growing movement to empower bystanders to save a life when someone suffers sudden cardiac arrest,” says Cathy Chidester, director of the County EMS Agency. “We are glad to partner with the American Heart Association, fire departments and hospitals to bring Sidewalk CPR into local communities. With 80 percent of all cardiac arrest occurring at home, we need to help family and friends learn how to double or triple their loved one’s chance of survival.”

Suzanne Post, Fire Safety Coordinator for the Santa Monica Fire Department said bystanders rarely perform CPR either because they don’t know how or due to discomfort with the mouth-to-mouth component. She said the June 5 training addresses both.

“It’s important to be out in the community educating residents on the facts and allowing them to try it,” she said. “They need to try it and say ‘wow, I can do this.’ The sidewalk CPR is training people in hands only, no mouth-to-mouth, there’s a belief that people hold back because of the mouth to mouth but they need to know that the compressions can make a difference.”

According to event organizers, the hands-only approach focuses on the first few minutes following a heart attack because the lungs and blood only hold enough oxygen to keep vital organs alive for about five minutes. Chest compressions using hands-only CPR can provide the ongoing blood flow needed to give the patient a much better chance of survival while responders are on their way.

“When someone has a heart attack, it’s those first five minutes that are key, so if someone can get down there and do compressions, their chance of survival is much greater,” said Post.

Officials at the UCLA event said participants would receive a free, 10-minute lesson from an expert including practice sessions with a manikin.

“Hands-only CPR is just as effective as conventional CPR and can double or even triple a victim’s chance of survival,” said Dr. Wally Ghurabi, medical director of the hospital’s Nethercutt Emergency Center as well as the Santa Monica Fire Department. “And it only takes a few minutes to acquire the skill, learn the importance of first calling 9-1-1, and gain the confidence to immediately jump in to help.”

Participants at both events will also receive tips and additional educational material.

The local classes are part of a partnership with the American Heart Association that includes 90 training sites around the county. Organizers said more than 7,000 people were trained last year and their goal is to train at least 10,000 this year.

“It’s really important for people to know that it does take someone in the public to save someone’s life,” said Post. “It can really make a difference.”

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