Young children learning how to perform CPR, call 911

Heart health organizations are encouraging parents and schools to start teaching children how to call for help in an emergency from a young age.

Evidence shows children as young as 4 years old are able to learn what an emergency is and learn how to call 911, according to a new scientific statement published last week by the American Heart Association, the European Resuscitation Council and the International Liaison Committee on Resuscitation.

The American Heart Association encourages parents to also teach children their address, so if they have to call for help, a 911 dispatcher can send an ambulance.

"This research shows that children that are a little bit younger age than they might have thought are ready to start acting in an emergency. Talking about what 911 is and how to activate that chain of survival, and talking about how acting quickly is very important for not just children for everybody," said Justin Bell, Vice President of Health Strategies for the American Heart Association in Minnesota.

Bell said those conversations can set the stage, so by the time a child is age 10 or 12, they can effectively administer chest compressions as part of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, or CPR.

Approximately 70 to 90 percent of people who go into cardiac arrest outside of the hospital die before they can there because people around them don't know how to properly intervene.

In Minnesota, 911 dispatchers are required to know how to give CPR instruction over the phone.

"Time is so crucial, and doing something is always better than doing nothing," Bell said.

Bell said his organization has worked to teach CPR in Minnesota schools.

"Most kids get trained in ninth or 10th grade health class, but when we were working on this a few years ago, there are some schools that are doing it in seventh and eighth grade," Bell said.

He said it's also important to have a plan in case of an emergency at home.

"So talking with your family about calling 911, starting CPR, making sure that the door is open (so first responders can get inside). Maybe someone's outside flagging down an ambulance," Bell said.