Using Mass Training to Build Community Awareness : World Record Set at Cowboys Stadium

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They say everything is bigger in Texas. That includes CPR events.

Five years ago, physician Robert Cluck, mayor of Arlington, put forth a challenge to his city’s 360,000 residents: Improve cardiac arrest survival rates by teaching 10 percent of the population how to perform CPR.

As vice president for medical affairs at Arlington Memorial Hospital, Cluck knew from experience how important CPR is in saving lives. Cluck enlisted the help of the Arlington Fire Department, which was eager to take on the task.

“Getting bystander CPR initiated early is critical,” said Battalion Chief/Medical Operations David Carroll. “Our residents are spread out over a large area. It can take 5 to 8 minutes to get a fire truck or ambulance to them. If someone suffers cardiac arrest and is lying there for 5 to 8 minutes and the oxygen isn’t flowing, it’s going to be difficult to rescue them.”

The campaign kicked off with a mass CPR training event. Calling it CPaRlington, more than 200 people learned to do chest compressions on the field of Rangers Ballpark, Arlington’s Major League Baseball stadium. Firefighter/EMTs also began teaching CPR at junior high schools, with 50 to 100 children rotating in and out of the gym all day. Last year, they taught at nine schools.

To reach their goal of 36,000, they knew they had to step it up. They hatched a plan: stage the most massive CPR event the world had ever seen.

The night before the event, volunteers had lined up American Heart Association kits in tidy lines across the field, each containing an instructional DVD and manikin. Then, on the morning of Nov. 17, 2009, more than 100 school buses began arriving at Cowboys Stadium, unloading 4,626 eighth grade students from across the city.

At 10 a.m., the students knelt on the grass doing chest compressions while the DVD played on the giant video screen as volunteer CPR instructors walked the rows, offering assistance.

“I was overwhelmed by it,” Cluck said. “The sheer number of kids doing the compressions, their enthusiasm, their seriousness. They had fun, but they went home understanding how to do CPR. I think any of the kids out there who participated could successfully resuscitate someone.”

The effort was enough to earn Arlington a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Previously, Oslo, Norway, held the world record for the largest CPR training session, with 3,692 participants. When the Guinness World Records official sent to observe the event announced that Arlington had surpassed Oslo, “the kids went wild,” Cluck said.

Tips from Arlington for Staging Your Own Mass CPR Event

A mass CPR event can teach large numbers of people CPR while showing the community the critical role of EMS.

  1. Staging a mass event is a collaborative effort, requiring the support of local politicians, EMS and other medical experts, and the school board if you want to include students. Volunteers came from the fire department, American Medical Response and the University of Texas, Arlington School of Nursing, and included professional CPR instructors and EMTs and paramedic students from a school in Dallas.
  2. The CPR tool used to teach students was the American Heart Association’s Friends & Family CPR Anytime Personal Learning Program, which includes an inflatable manikin and instructional DVD. While the kits do not provide certification in CPR, the program teaches the basics in only 22 minutes. The children could take the kits home and were asked to teach CPR to their parents and others in their households.
  3. The AHA typically sells kits for about $35, but Arlington was able to purchase the kits at a reduced rate by buying in bulk. The local university, hospital and other area businesses provided the funding. Though the cost was about $100,000, Cluck said the community got behind the concept and enthusiastically pitched in. “It really wasn’t that hard,” Cluck said.
  4. Another big step in the process was finding the venue. Not everyone has Cowboys Stadium in their backyards, but most communities have large sports fields that can accommodate hundreds of people.
  5. So how many people should you include? The larger the number, the more likely you are to get press coverage. “When you train 4,600 people, it generates a lot of interest,” Cluck said. Just be sure keep it under 4,626—Arlington wants its world record to stand a while longer.