"Save-a-life" parties are introducing more people to emergency-response techniques in a more relaxed environment.
Combine the socializing of a Tupperware party with cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training and you've got a "save-a-life" party.
Such an event took place recently at Shore- view's Midland Terrace Apartments, where about 20 party-goers knelt in a circle on the floor, ready to practice life-saving techniques on their "Annies" -- inflatable training dummies.
The "save-a-life party" coincided with National Night Out -- the national neighborhood crime-fighting initiative -- earlier this month. Save-a-life parties are designed to teach people to react quickly in emergencies, and, in particular, how to use CPR, said training leader Ron Evens, a representative from the Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View fire department's volunteer fire corps.
Save-a-life parties are more relaxed than CPR certification courses, which go for four hours and include a test, Evens said. Participants also learn how to use AEDs -- portable electronic devices that can deliver electric shocks to normalize heart rhythms during sudden cardiac arrest.
The parties are held monthly at the fire station, and they soon will be offered at the Mounds View Community Center on a regular basis. The fire corps frequently holds parties on-site for private groups as well.
It's part of a broader initiative called "Take Heart Minnesota," aimed at boosting the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest victims, Evens said.
Anoka County was one of only four areas chosen across the country to test the program, implemented by Allina Hospitals and Clinics. The Spring Lake Park-Blaine-Mounds View Fire Department has been a model for the parties, a concept developed through Allina's Heart Safe Communities program.
In performing CPR, your hands should be locked over the center of the chest, on the breastbone, Evens told the Midland Terrace group. "Lock your elbows and push with the weight of your body," he said.
The ratio for CPR, he said, is 30 chest compressions to two breaths. Likening it to the beat of the Bee Gees song "Stayin' Alive," he instructed his students to count aloud to keep track.
"We're trying to get the notice out that compressions take quite a bit of force," he said. "You'll hear the chest click [on the dummy] if you're doing it correctly."
Before long, the room was filled with a cacophony of clicks, breaths and exhalations.
Marilyn Bergfeldt, a Midland Terrace resident who works as an attendant at the apartment complex's clubhouse, said the class put her at ease. As someone whose dad died of a massive coronary many years ago, "It's very real for me," she said. Now she's thinking of going on to get CPR certification.
"I was scared to death of AEDs," she said. "I was worried about the shock doing damage, I got a lot of assurance that you can't go too far wrong. It's better to break someone's ribs than to stand by."
Such training could come in especially handy because she helps close up the apartment pool at night.
"I'd rather know how to do CPR and not have to use it than to need it and not know it."
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer.