The Waco Fire Department this month is trying to make learning to save a life painless.

Each Saturday in February, health professionals and first responders will be on hand at a local fire station to give 10-minute training in “hands-only” CPR techniques. Even without mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the simplified CPR technique can dramatically increase the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest, according to American Heart Association.

This Saturday, the public can drop by Waco Fire Station No. 2 at 2625 Park Lake Drive any time between 9 and 11 a.m. or 1 and 3 p.m. for the training.

The first training session last Saturday did not go so well. No one showed up, Fire Chief Bobby Tatum said. He said it is possible the public did not understand how quick and easy the sessions are.

“I think that probably held some people back,” Tatum said. “We’re encouraging people to bring their family and visit the fire station. We can show you the fire truck, and you can learn CPR.”

He said free blood pressure checks will also be available at the event, which is sponsored by the fire department and the Heart of Texas Regional Advisory Council, with help from the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association in recent years has promoted the compression-only technique as being as effective as conventional CPR. The sudden cardiac arrest survival rate nationwide is only about 11 percent but could be much higher if bystanders were trained in first aid, association officials say.

“We need to work harder in our community to change survival rates,” said Peggy Lane, an American Heart Association volunteer involved in the effort. “Those are needless deaths that don’t need to happen.”

The association recommends that everyone know the symptoms of cardiac arrest, which involves the electrical failure of the heart. Victims collapse, lose consciousness and have no pulse or breath.

After calling 911, bystanders should immediately start CPR by pressing the rib cage in a steady rhythm to move blood through the patient’s body.

The optimum rhythm is about 103 beats per minute, which happens to fit perfectly with a certain 1970s disco hit by the Bee Gees.

“We tell people to think of ‘Stayin’ Alive,’ ” Tatum said. “If you follow the beat of that song, it keeps you right in time. The other song is ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ but you might not want to play that one. I’d stick with ‘Stayin’ Alive.’ ”

Other training sessions are scheduled for Feb. 17 at Waco Fire Station No. 11, 7600 Imperial Drive, and Feb. 24 at Fire Station No. 14, 5401 Speegleville Road. The training is available from 9 to 11 a.m. and from 1 to 3 p.m. each Saturday.

A related health fair is Feb. 17 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Fire Station No. 9, 315 New Road.

J.B. Smith is the the Tribune-Herald managing editor. A native of Sulphur Springs, he attended Southwestern University and joined the Tribune-Herald in 1997. He and his wife, Bethany, live in Waco and have two children.

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