Scouters in Action: Two incidents illustrate the value of CPR training

A photo of hands performing chest compressions on a practice mannequin
Photo by iStock/Getty Images

A Scout parent hears her husband calling for help — a toddler is floating face down in their backyard swimming pool.

Another parent is picking up his son up from track practice and notices a commotion nearby —one of his son’s teammates has collapsed on the track.

Both incidents turned out a lot differently than they would have had the adults not been trained in CPR.

One of the promises we make every time we say the Scout Oath is to help other people at all times. And one of the best ways to help other people is to Be Prepared to help by knowing how to correctly perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

“The BSA strongly recommends that all adult leaders and youth capable of performing CPR be properly trained through a nationally recognized organization,” according to the BSA Safety Moment on CPR. “Although certification is not always required for rank advancement and merit badges, it is helpful. While the steps for performing CPR are not difficult … taking a course is helpful to learn correct techniques.”

A near drowning in a backyard pool

In the spring of 2022, Jim Karslake glanced into his backyard and noticed a little girl floating face down in his pool. He yelled to his wife, then ran outside and pulled the girl out of the water.

Christine Karslake had recently completed Wilderness First Aid and CPR training as part of the preparation for a trip to Northern Tier High Adventure base.

In seconds, she was at the child’s side performing CPR as her husband called 911. She continued to perform CPR for around 7 minutes, until paramedics arrived.

The paramedics eventually detected a pulse, and the girl recovered.

Christine Karslake, an assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 344 in the Greater St. Louis Area Council, earned a BSA Heroism Award for her actions.

CPR is a valuable skill for youth and adults alike. BSA file photo

Cardiac arrest during track practice

In February 2023, Bradley Davis was picking up his son from the first track practice of the year when he noticed a group of people gathered around a figure on the track. He asked someone nearby what was happening, and the person told him they needed a doctor.

They were in luck. Davis is a physician. However, the skills he put to use on that day were no greater than what any person can learn from taking a CPR class.

Davis ran to the scene of the incident and found a young boy unconscious on the ground. As often happens in these situations, multiple people were standing around with no idea what to do.

Davis checked the boy for a pulse and, after finding none, began CPR.

After five cycles of compressions, the boy began breathing.

Paramedics arrived minutes later and loaded the boy onto a stretcher — then his heart stopped again. The paramedics were able to revive him and take him to the hospital. He eventually recovered.

Davis, an assistant Scoutmaster with Troop 119 in the Mecklenburg County Council in North Carolina, received a BSA Heroism Award for his actions.

What will I learn in a CPR course?

It is important for everyone to know CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) techniques.

The BSA recommends taking courses from nationally recognized organizations that cover rescue breathing as part of the curriculum. These include the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, Emergency Care & Safety Institute, and American Safety and Health Institute. Always use a face shield for rescue breaths.

You can also contact your local BSA council, fire department or hospital.

One of the things you’ll learn from taking a course is how to recognize the symptoms that can indicate an impending heart attack, including severe chest or left arm pain, jaw pain, profuse sweating, gray or ashen skin color, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, and indigestion that does not go away.

What is hands-only CPR?

If you are not trained in full CPR, hands-only CPR is CPR without rescue breaths. Below are the steps for performing hands-only CPR for adults. Click here to see the steps for performing CPR on a child or infant.

  1. Make sure the scene is safe. Tap the person on the shoulder to see if they can respond.
  2. If there’s no response from the victim, call 911, or ask a bystander to call 911.
  3. Ensure the person is on their back.
  4. Kneel next to the person, with your knees near their body and spread about shoulder-width apart.
  5. Place the heel of one hand in the center of the person’s chest, then place your other hand on top of it. Interlace your fingers.
  6. Position your body so your shoulders are directly over your hands. Lock your elbows.
  7. Push hard and fast — at least 2 inches down with 100-120 compressions per minute, allowing the chest to return to its normal position after each compression.
  8. Do not stop unless the person becomes responsive, advanced care arrives, an AED arrives, the scene becomes unsafe or you become too exhausted to continue.

Click here to learn more about CPR and AEDs.


About Aaron Derr 436 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.