Reaching the Community with Hands-Only CPR

According to the American Heart Association’s 2017 statistics, heart disease remains the top cause of death in the United States, claiming 1 in 7 deaths.

A heart attack occurs every 40 seconds, and while the death rate is in decline (down 35.5% from 2004 to 2014), the best way to affect out-of-hospital cardiac-arrest incidents is to ensure that automated defibrillators are readily available and that large portions of the community are trained in CPR.

The University of Illinois (UI) campus represents a unique subset of a community. Sitting between the cities of Champaign and Urbana, the university is home to over 47,000 students from all 50 U.S. states and more than half of the world’s countries.

More than 10,000 faculty and staff support the teaching and research missions of the university. If UI were a city, it would be 20th largest in Illinois.

The university averages one cardiac arrest on campus annually. For the past three years, the person suffering from cardiac arrest has been successfully resuscitated due to the efforts of campus emergency responders, fire-department first responders, EMS transport agencies and our local hospital system.

Explaining the steps to HO CPR to a visitor to the Fire Service Association Tent at the Illinois State Fair.To help influence this trend, Illini Emergency Medical Services (IEMS) is expanding its offerings of CPR training on campus to include hands-only (HO) CPR.

We know that when a person suffers cardiac arrest, they have several minute’s worth of oxygen already in their lungs. By performing compressions alone, that oxygenated blood can be circulated to transport nutrients and oxygen to the brain.

Six CPR Instructors trained 137 passers-by at the Illinois State Fair.To pilot the idea for delivering HO CPR to passersby in a large group, IEMS set up at the Illinois State Fair. Over the course of six hours, 137 people were trained in this one-minute skill.

The instruction was simple: if the person isn’t responsive, send someone for help and an AED and start CPR. Continue until help or an AED arrives or until you’re too tired to continue.

Following the test at the state fair, IEMS prepared to deliver CPR training using the same format at Quad Day, a large student-organization gathering that opens the academic year. At this event, 225 people were trained in four hours.

IEMS has continued to deliver training to passersby at events over the course of the fall semester and is combining this brief CPR training with AED usage to reach more agencies on campus with these crucial life-saving skills. The goal is to train at least 2,200 people on the UI campus before the end of the semester and the group is well on their way to reaching that goal.


IEMS is a student-led volunteer EMS agency with over 200 members operating as a program within the Illinois Fire Service Institute (IFSI). While not a traditional fire-based EMS organization, IEMS leverages their connection to the Illinois Fire Service Institute to have a significant impact all students, faculty, staff and visitors to the University of Illinois campus. For more information on IEMS, visit the Illini Emergency Medical Services webpage or email the author directly 

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