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Under new law, CPR training mandatory in Wash. high schools

Associated Press

Starting this fall, all high school students will get CPR training under a new mandate signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

The students don’t have to get certified in CPR—the proposal for certification was rejected as too cumbersome for public schools. But the state-mandated health class, which kids typically take in 9th or 10th grade, will now include a day or two of CPR training. 

When bystanders are prepared to perform CPR, it's far more likely someone will survive from sudden cardiac arrest, which kills about 1,000 people a day across the United States. The Seattle area has one of the highest rates of bystander CPR in the country—and higher survival rates—but there's still room to improve.

'They won't be hesitant to act'

"It’s the idea of training this generation of young adults who, when presented with this situation, will step forward instead of stepping back," says Eric Rothenberg of Mercer Island, Wash., who has been lobbying for this ever since CPR saved his life. "They won’t be hesitant to act. They will feel empowered."

"Fortunately enough, there were guys I was playing tennis with who ... started CPR on me." - Eric Rothenberg of Mercer Island

Rothenberg he collapsed on a tennis court in 2009.

"Fortunately enough, there were guys I was playing tennis with who were also doctors, and they started CPR on me," says Rothenberg. He was 42 years old, with no known health problems.

Someone grabbed an automatic defibrillator, or AED, which kept him alive until paramedics arrived.

More than one-third of high schools in Washington already teach CPR, according to the American Heart Association. The new law makes it universal. 

CPR is easier to teach than it used to be, because the focus is now on pressing on the chest; mouth-to-mouth resuscitations are no longer a concern. An AED is designed to be self-explanatory with built-in voice instructions, but the teenagers will get a demonstration of that, too, in health class, so they won't be afraid to use it.

Students probably won't use CPR in school, but if a parent or grandparent or stranger collapses, they’ll know not to wait for an expert to arrive.

The Heart Association of Washington was the major force pushing the new law. The group says firefighters and emergency technicians are volunteering to visit classrooms and help teach basic CPR.

Keith Seinfeld is a former KNKX/KPLU reporter who covered health, science and the environment over his 17 years with the station. He also served as assistant news director. Prior to KLPU, he was a staff reporter at The Seattle Times and The News Tribune in Tacoma and a freelance writer-producer. His work has been honored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Knight Science Journalism Fellowships at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.