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Get the latest coverage of the 2021 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida Students Could Soon Be Required To Take CPR Training Before Graduation

CPR from a bystander can double or triple a person’s likelihood of survival following a sudden cardiac arrest. But not everyone knows the steps. A measure under consideration this session would make training a requirement for graduation.

More than 350,000 people experience sudden cardiac arrest each year. Immediate CPR from a bystander can be the difference between life and death. Florida is one of only about a dozen states that doesn’t require its students to learn CPR before graduating. But, this week lawmakers heard testimony in committee from members of the public whose family members and loved ones needed help from someone trained in CRP. They're urging the state to put a CPR training requirement in place.

Shawn Sima is one of those people.

His daughter, Lexi, had been an athlete for most of her life. She was young and healthy. Then one day Sima got a call. His daughter had collapsed at the gym.

“The last thing I thought was daughter was dead on the floor of a gym. I was thinking a knee or an ankle. But I arrived to that gym to find my daughter’s lifeless body on the ground," Sima says.

Sima says his daughter’s life was saved by a person who had recently learned CPR through his job.

"This gentleman had just taken CPR and he watched my daughter die on the ground and he knew what to do because he took CPR. He did chest compressions. And they used an AED on my daughter. Ten minutes before the ambulance got there my daughter had life," Sima says.

Sima says the average time it takes for an ambulance to arrive on the scene is longer than experts say a person can survive without oxygen reaching their brain.

“You have three to five minutes to do something—i.e. CPR. The national average for the ambulance to pull up to your house is seven to 14 minutes. Do that math," Sima says.

Sima says his daughter had to depend on getting help from someone who happened to learn CPR for their job. He says that shouldn't be left to chance and he wants to make sure more people know what to do if someone goes into cardiac arrest. He says if all Florida students learned CPR, they could carry that knowledge with them and saves people’s lives in the future. He's supporting a measure by Rep. Fred Hawkins (R-St. Cloud) has that would make an hour-long training session a requirement for graduation.

“It would be my hope that this education would never have to be used by the ones that learn it. But how gratifying would it be for the ones that save a life,” Hawkins says.

Speakers also pushed for a move to require EKGs for student athletes. The screenings can catch signs of heart issues that might be missed by a regular doctor’s visit and could keep young people, like Lexi, from suffering unexpected cardiac arrest.

A provision to do that had been included in the House version of the bill. But Hawkins, filed a strike-all amendment to remove the language. The change makes his bill a closer match to the Senate bill and helps to reduce some of the financial concerns surrounding the proposal. Hawkins says there’s also a free online training that teachers and students could take to learn CPR and meet the bill’s requirements.

Meanwhile, lawmakers say they're committed to working to find a way to support an EKG screening requirement in the future.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.org.

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