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Napa Ends Mouth-to-Mouth

Stop wasting your breath. 


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If you are planning to keel over from a heart attack, you may want to do it in Napa. In 2013, the save rate for people who experienced cardiac arrest in the city was 50 percent, trouncing the national average of 32 percent. The following year, Napa's save rate jumped to 83 percent.

Credit for this goes at least in part to Napa’s Hands-Only Initiative, developed in 2013 by the county fire department. Hands-only CPR is a lifesaving chest-compression technique that can easily be performed by bystanders. “The real driving component in the first five to seven minutes is compressions, not ventilation,” explains fire captain Eli Cronbach. “There’s still oxygen in the blood, so what a first responder needs to do is circulate it.”

The hands-only method is easy and straight-forward: no mouth-to-mouth, which can be intimidating (and, for more squeamish types, gross)—just hard, fast compressions to the beat of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive.” The method’s simplicity, emergency response experts say, makes civilian bystanders more likely to step up in a crisis. The fire department offers hands-only training every month, promising enrollees that it takes only about 10 minutes to learn how to save a life. The current goal is to teach the technique to 5,000 Napa residents, including every city employee. As of March 2015, more than 1,300 residents had received training.


Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco

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