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How the HEARTSafe Community Program Is Helping People Prepare to Save Lives

The Citizen CPR Foundation has launched a program designed to help save lives from one of the leading life-threatening emergencies we face – sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). The HEARTSafe Community program is designed to improve preparedness and response to these emergency events, which strike without regard to age, race, gender, or physical condition, and claim hundreds of thousands of lives each year in the United States.

“What many people may not realize is that SCA is still one of the leading causes of death,” said Dr. Stu Berger, M.D., president of the Citizen CPR Foundation and executive director of the Heart Center at Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. ”COVID-19 has been devastating to every aspect of our lives, and yet when we put into perspective that the incidence of SCA outside the hospital was over 350,000 and the survival rate was approximately 10 percent, according to 2020 American Heart Association statistics, we know that we cannot let this important public health crisis be forgotten.”

Building the chain

The HEARTSafe Community program provides a comprehensive set of science-based recommendations and best practices, and lays out strategies designed to strengthen each link in the SCA “chain of survival.” It then encourages community planners to put these recommendations and practices into action, and includes requirements for widespread CPR instruction, public access to defibrillators, and aggressive resuscitation protocols for first responders and area hospitals. 

“We know that a coordinated response to SCA is critical to improving survival in our communities,” Dr. Berger said. “We believe it is every citizen’s responsibility to know CPR, what an AED is and how to use one, and what steps to take to save the lives of their children, family, friends and neighbors.”

Upon implementing the criteria, reporting back to the foundation on each measure, and receiving approval from the Program Advisory Committee, communities may proudly promote their designation as a HEARTSafe Community. City signage and a PR kit are made available to community leaders to help spread the word of their new designation and commitment to citizen safety and longevity. 


The Citizen CPR Foundation was formally founded in 1987 with a mission to save more lives from sudden cardiac arrest. Since its inception, it has sought to strengthen the chain of survival, a metaphor developed by one of the foundation’s co-founders. The chain defines the series of actions that improve the rate of SCA survival and is now widely used within the resuscitation community.

The Citizen CPR Foundation’s focus starts with awareness and education for community members, and continues through the interventions provided by 911 professionals, first responders, emergency medical technicians, emergency department personnel, and specialists in intensive care units. Community planners, as well as survivors and their loved ones, are important allies in their work to ensure safer communities and raise awareness at every level. 

The Foundation is well known within the SCA ecosystem as the host of the biennial Cardiac Arrest Survival Summit (formerly Emergency Cardiovascular Care Update or ECCU). This seminal conference attracts over 1,000 attendees from around the world, and draws support from important industry and non-profit partners, as well as key influencers and experts — all while honoring and recognizing SCA survivors. The convening provides a forum for debate and discussion on the latest science, innovations, updates, and guidelines for resuscitation and SCA survival. 

“As the COVID-19 crisis continues to evolve, our mission of saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest has not been put on hold,” Dr. Berger said. “Once this current crisis is behind us, organizations, communities, and advocates will need to partner more urgently in mission-aligned work. We all realize the increased value of partnerships and engaged communities to develop solutions and social movements of global impact through local advocacy and change. This is the Citizen CPR Foundation model.”

To learn more about how to become involved with the Citizen CPR Foundation as a partner or supporter, contact Jennifer Crocker at [email protected]

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