This fall, Philadelphia high school students will learn more than just what's in their curriculum – they will also learn how to save a life.

In 2015, more than 1,100 people died from sudden cardiac arrest in Philadelphia alone, according to studies conducted by the CPR Ready Campaign. Many of those lives could have been saved if someone nearby was trained or willing to perform CPR. In Philadelphia, on average, only 15 percent of people who experience a cardiac arrest received bystander CPR, significantly lower than the national average of 39.9 percent.

Hands-Only CPR, a simpler but effective form of CPR without mouth-to-mouth breaths, can double or triple a cardiac arrest victim's chance of survival, and students can be trained to perform it in just one class period.

The training takes only a few minutes to learn and will give students the confidence they need to jump into action in a moment of need. It only takes two steps to save a life:

  1. Call 911 for assistance and locate an automated external defibrillator (AED)
  2. Push hard and fast on the center of the chest.

The American Heart Association has donated Hands-Only CPR training kits to schools throughout the Philadelphia School District to make this important skill more accessible and easier to learn. To date, the Philadelphia School District has been able to secure 62 Hands-Only CPR Training Kits, one kit for each high school in the district. These kits include training mannikins, AED simulators and instructional guides to help teachers and students become better-acquainted with CPR best practices, and to ensure they're comfortable stepping up to save a life in need.

But one CPR kit isn't always enough to cover all the students in larger schools. That's why donations that make these kits more accessible are critical. With enough funding to place multiple Hands-Only CPR kits in every public high school in the district, we could ensure more than 100,000 students are ready to save lives, which could drastically impact the cardiac arrest survival rate in Philadelphia and move us closer to the national average.

The American Heart Association has worked to establish as many CPR training opportunities in Philadelphia as possible.  Collaboration between the Association and Philadelphia-based groups such as the CPR Ready Coalition, Simon's Heart Foundation and Youth Heart Watch are working toward a goal of doubling the number of people who are knowledgeable about and willing to perform bystander CPR and use an AED when available. Penn Medicine's Mobile CPR Project has led training sessions across Philadelphia at no cost, furthering our mission of saving more lives.

Hands-Only CPR is a critical life-saving skill, and to ensure our students have access to the absolute best training, the voices, efforts and resources of concerned citizens are required. On September 25, Pennsylvania's Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 521 which will ensure the state's high school students learn Hands-Only CPR before they graduate, making Pennsylvania the 39th state to pass this type of legislation. It is now more critical than ever that Philadelphia's high schools are equipped with the proper tools to administer these Hands-Only CPR trainings.

To learn more about Hands-Only CPR training in schools and make sure your voice is heard, please visit

Benjamin Abella, MD is a practicing emergency physician and professor at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine. He serves as a national volunteer spokesperson for the American Heart Association. Jennifer T. Davis is the senior vice president and executive director for the American Heart Association in Philadelphia.