COUNTY — In times of crisis, every second counts, especially when waiting on emergency personnel to arrive.

Learning how to properly perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a lifesaving technique useful in emergencies such as heart attacks or near drownings when someone’s breathing or heartbeat has stopped, is one way to help until help arrives.

Representatives from the American Heart Association recently distributed 200 hands-only CPR kits to fire stations in the Douglas, Elfrida and Naco area.

According to Melissa Dye, director of social marketing, the AHA is proud to announce a call to action for addressing inequities in rural health.

“We are committed to the support of innovative approaches in Southern Arizona to ensure equitable health for all, especially in our rural communities,” Dye said in a press release. “Through research, community solutions and other substantial work, the AHA is addressing barriers to health equity including structural racism, social factors that hurt people’s health and threats to rural health. We are calling on health care and other stakeholders such as the Arizona Community Foundation to collaborate in efforts to address the needs of rural populations and develop solutions to improve rural health.”

Dye said the AHA wanted to make sure the most basic tools and resources were available to increase the likelihood of people reaching their health potential.

“In the project, ‘Cuidando De Ti’ or ‘Taking Care of You,’ our goal is to provide 200 hands-only CPR kits to three identified Fire department districts: Douglas/Portal, Elfrida and Naco,” Dye said. “Our Southern Arizona team is proudly connected to many health and first responders in Cochise County and through a series of community conversations have identified crucial areas of need.”

According to fire department chiefs from Douglas, Elfrida and Naco, time is critical after a cardiac arrest because the heart is not pumping and the brain is not getting oxygen.

“Without any CPR within four minutes of arrest, the chance of a friend or loved one surviving is very low,” Dye said. “All chiefs also expressed their concern of the amount of time it takes for an ambulance to reach patients in rural communities. For example, in the town of Douglas the response time is four minutes, but Douglas also responds to calls from Portal which could take the crew 45-60 minutes to arrive.

“If there is a snowstorm or bad weather, it will take emergency crews even longer. Portal has a volunteer emergency response team, but Douglas takes every single call and many times in the middle of the night. Residents in rural areas who know CPR can increase someone’s chance of surviving a cardiac arrest. Scientific research by the American Heart Association has established that immediate hands-only CPR on an adult cardiac arrest patient gives that person the best chance of survival. The American Heart Association refers to this as the chain of survival.”

According to former Douglas Chief Alfred Novoa, equipping community members with simple CPR skills can be enough to save a life.

“The other very important thing to consider is that the pandemic has dramatically increased the amount of home-bound adults and childcare providers in our rural communities, making them high risk individuals all around,” Novoa said.

Dye said bystander CPR is provided less frequently in Latino neighborhoods compared to other areas. Cardiac-arrest victims in the most heavily Latino-populated neighborhoods were more than 40% less likely to survive until discharged from the hospital.

While annual rates of CPR training in the U.S. are low, they also vary widely across communities. Counties located in the south with higher proportions of rural areas, Black and Hispanic residents and with lower median household incomes all have lower rates of CPR training than other communities.

To learn more about the CPR program email Dye at Melissa.Dye@heart.org or call 520-236-4587.