About 20 people participated in an interactive hands-on CPR training and choking relief course at the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services administrative offices in Columbia on Wednesday evening.
The county-sponsored class, which uses plastic dummies and video, is part of a larger initiative to eventually ensure that every resident of Howard County is trained in CPR and choking relief.
"We're one step closer to achieving our goal," fire department Community CPR Specialist Brad Tanner said Wednesday.
Tanner said the initiative, implemented by County Executive Ken Ulman less than one year ago, is adapted from a program created by the American Heart Association.
According to Tanner, one of the biggest misconceptions the initiative hopes to dispel is that a person needs to be certified in CPR to perform it.
"Certification is required for certain jobs, but anyone trained in CPR can perform it," Tanner said. "Even imperfect CPR can save someone's life."
Tanner said some uncertified participants are hesitant about administering CPR because they worry they may be liable if they inadvertently crack a victim's rib or otherwise injure someone.
Tanner always reminds participants that if that happens, they are protected from liability under the Maryland Good Samaritan Act.
The law states that all uncertified individuals acting at the scene of an emergency are not liable if they act in a reasonable manner and relinquish control once a trained technician arrives.
For some class participants previously trained in CPR, like Columbia resident Tina Dolan, the two-hour class Wednesday served as a refresher for proper technique.
"You never know when you might need it," Dolan said. "It's a matter of life or death."
Dolan, who was first trained in the 1980s, said the procedure has more emphasis on pushing and less on breathing than she previously remembers.
"It's a medical procedure that's constantly changing," Tanner said.
In addition to offering the free classes, the county is making CPR training and choking relief a graduation requirement for all county school children, Tanner said.
Tanner said students take courses in the sixth and ninth grade, and representatives from the fire department have been actively training Health and Physical Education faculty in proper CPR teaching techniques.