Save a life in two easy steps with hands-only CPR

No one plans to have a cardiac arrest or a heart attack, but it can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Cardiac arrest is the abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have diagnosed heart disease. It occurs instantly or shortly after symptoms appear.  Every year, more than 350,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital and 90 percent of those people do not survive.  When a person has a cardiac arrest, survival depends on immediately receiving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) from someone nearby.

As a cardiologist, I have witnessed the devastation when nobody was available to perform CPR.  From those failures, I have learned that cardiac arrest survival rates in Philadelphia lag well behind those seen in other cities though we host some of the finest medical centers in the U.S.

I have also cared for those saved by bystander CPR. Hands-only CPR can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, and has been shown to be as effective as conventional CPR for cardiac arrests that occur outside of the hospital.

There are just two easy steps to saving a life with hands-only CPR:

  • First, call 911 if you see a person suddenly collapse.
  • Then, push hard and fast in the center of the chest to the beat of a familiar song that has 100-120 beats per minute, such as “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees.
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The hands-only CPR kiosk at Independence Visitors Center.

In recent years, the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Southeastern Pa. Board of Directors has made hands-only CPR training a priority, and has worked with the region’s five largest school districts to train their students prior to graduation.  In addition, the AHA staff and volunteers have played a key role in the launch of CPR Ready, a coalition of local academic, municipal, commercial and non-profit organizations, whose mission is to drastically increase bystander CPR and cardiac arrest survival rates in the Philadelphia region.

To accelerate these efforts, on Thursday, Oct. 26, the AHA will unveil its first hands-only CPR kiosk in Philadelphia at the Independence Visitor Center (IVC). The center’s 2 million annual visitors will now have the opportunity to learn hands-only CPR, and become equipped to save someone’s life in a moment of crisis.  The kiosk will teach users how they can immediately help a person who experiences a cardiac emergency outside of a hospital.  By situating this kiosk in a public space like the IVC, we can put this life-saving skill in front of millions and remove a barrier of access to this type of training.

If you are interested in learning more about hands-only CPR, visit for more information.

Kenneth Margulies, M.D. is the director of the cardiovascular clinical research unit at Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He is also the immediate past president of the American Heart Association Southeastern Pa. Board of Directors.