Utah has become the 18th state to require high school students to take CPR training, adding to the more than one million graduates who will be equipped with this lifesaving skill every year.

Gov. Gary Herbert signed legislation into law in April that allocated $200,000 a year for hands-on CPR and automated external defibrillator training in high schools. A new provision of the legislation, formalized this month, requires students to receive CPR and AED training in 10th grade health class beginning in the 2014-2015 school year. That means nearly 35,000 sophomores will learn CPR every year.

“You don’t have to be a paramedic or doctor or even an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association employee to take part in saving someone’s life. All you need to have is a desire to help and make a difference,” said Marc Watterson, the American Heart Association’s director of government relations for Utah. “Because of the work of the AHA, a whole generation of lifesavers will be walking through our communities, prepared to step in at a moment’s notice to try and save a life.”

Utah Lobby Day: Heart on the Hill Group

The American Heart Association encouraged lawmakers to include the training requirement, and worked closely with the Utah Department of Health, the State Office of Education, and the Utah Parent Teachers Association.

The AHA is collaborating with similar organizations nationwide to push for laws requiring CPR and automated external defibrillator training in high school.

It’s important because a sudden cardiac arrest may strike at any time. School-based CPR training is one of the most effective ways to get large numbers trained in this simple, lifesaving skill.

Utah “Heart Savers” with Rep. Carol Spackman Moss

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.

“They often say that real superheroes don’t wear capes, they just do the difficult, extraordinary things that the average person does not,” Watterson said. “With this recent policy victory, Utah took the first steps to creating 35,000 new superheroes in our community each year.”

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.

Utah joins 17 other states with CPR graduation laws: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.

Photos provided by Cassie Watterson.

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