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Jun 19, 2012 10:16 AM

AZ 911 dispatchers guide callers in how to perform CPR

TUCSON-It can happen to anyone, at any time. Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in Arizona and across the country, but a new state-wide program is leading the way in reducing fatalities.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has teamed up with 911 dispatch centers across the state to teach dispatchers how to guide a caller in performing CPR.

"We're the ones who are going to try to do the most for that patient until the emergency units arrive on the scene and can then take over care," Rural Metro Dispatch Supervisor Alex Lopez says.

Within the last year the Rural Metro Dispatch Center has received about 60 calls for cardiac arrest. "You're never going to get the same call twice, it's always a different scenario," Lopez says.

The AZ Health Department sponsors training for the dispatchers, so they can guide the bystander. The typical wait time for an ambulance is eight minutes.

"For every minute delay, the survival drops 10%, so if you wait five minutes there's less than a 50% chance that individual will survive," Dr. Gordon Ewy of the UA Sarver Heart Center says.

The dispatchers ask two questions, "Is the victim conscious?" and "Is the victim breathing normally?". If both answers are no, the dispatcher begins to instruct the bystander on how to perform CPR.

Other states are also picking up on the dispatch CPR and Dr. Ewy hopes it becomes widespread. He says bystander CPR is helping to double the rate of survival.

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