Louisiana has become the 17th state to pass a law requiring all high school students to take CPR training, adding to the more than 1 million graduates who will be equipped with this lifesaving skill every year.

The legislation was passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Bobby Jindal on Thursday. It takes effect in the 2014-2015 school year.

“Too few people in our community are trained in CPR to respond in these emergency situations. But this law will change that,” said Kay Eddleman, volunteer chair of the American Heart Association’s Louisiana Advocacy Committee.

Louisiana had a law in place that required that CPR be taught, but not a practice requirement that went along with it, said Coletta Barrett, R.N., vice president of mission for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“For someone to know they’re supposed to do CPR but not know how to do it could be frustrating,” said Barrett, also past chairman of the board of the American Heart Association. “We wanted to add this to the current law to make it clear we would give students the skills to practice what they’re supposed to do.”

The AHA and other organizations are pushing state legislatures across the country to pass bills requiring CPR and automated external defibrillator training for high school students.

No one knows for sure where and when a sudden cardiac arrest may strike, so training more people increases the odds someone will be prepared to give CPR. School-based CPR training is one of the most effective ways to get large numbers trained in this simple, lifesaving skill.

Bystander CPR can double or triple survival rates from cardiac arrest. However, many people do not get help from bystanders who could provide CPR if they knew how.

Of the roughly 424,000 Americans who have a cardiac arrest outside of the hospital each year, only 40 percent get CPR from a bystander and only about 10 percent survive. Most people don’t know how to use AEDs, which deliver an electric shock to stop cardiac arrest, although they’re becoming more widely available.

Training in CPR and AEDs could have made a difference in the tragic case of Burke Cobb, a Louisiana 14-year-old who had a sudden cardiac arrest while playing basketball with friends two years ago.

Burke had no signs of heart disease when he collapsed at his high school. He died despite 25 people being around him and AEDs being available. No one performed CPR. To honor him, the Louisiana law will be known as the Burke Cobb Act.

The AHA helped get the Burke Cobb Act passed by leading a diverse group of advocates that urged lawmakers to prioritize CPR education by writing letters, calling lawmakers and hosting a CPR Advocacy Day at the Louisiana State Capitol.

Louisiana joins 16 other states with CPR graduation laws: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Photo courtesy of Linzy Cotaya.

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