DC Fire and EMS wants more bystanders to learn CPR

Four D.C. firefighters competed at Nationals Park Tuesday to see who could do the best chest compressions and bag breathing.

It was the finals for a department-wide competition that aims to raise awareness of the importance of bystander CPR when people go into cardiac arrest. Firefighters Dalonte Nelson and Matthew Miller took the top prize and will enjoy a luxury box for a Nats game. 

But the main reason for the competition was to remind D.C. residents of the importance of bystander CPR — which is performed by someone who witnesses a cardiac arrest before first responders arrive. (People in such situations should also call 911.)

“I am very concerned about the drop we are seeing in the use of bystander CPR,” said D.C. Fire and EMS Chief John Donnelly.

In 2019, the percentage of cardiac arrest victims receiving bystander CPR reached an all-time high for the District — near the nationwide average of about 40%. 

That fell to 29% in 2021, as cardiac arrest rates continued to rise, D.C. Fire and EMS said. 

“In 2013, we responded to 637 cardiac arrests in the District. And that number rose in 2021 to 1,057 cardiac arrests,” said Dr. Robert Holman, the medical director for D.C. Fire and EMS.

Donnelly pointed to COVID-19 as a possible explanation for the recent drop in CPR rates, and he suggested that bystanders learn hands-only CPR, which involves chest compressions and no mouth-to-mouth. 

Holman agreed, adding, “Bystander CPR doubles or triples that patient’s chance of survival.”

The department recommends 100 to 120 chest compressions per minute while waiting for emergency services. 

“Initiate hands-only CPR pushing hard and fast on the breastbone in the middle of the chest,” said Holman. 

The Fire and EMS Department also offers free hands-on CPR training for groups. 

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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