We love to make things complicated. Think about it. We are really good at over-complicating subjects, and then convincing ourselves that we need an “expert” to solve the problem. How many of us can change a toilet? Install a ceiling fan? Change the fuses in our car? Certainly,  some areas require special training, but for the most part, we’ve created an illusion.

I remember this playing out in law school. For three years, I received special training. I learned how to write a brief – IRAC. I learned how to speak a foreign language that we created so nobody would understand it (including many of my classmates). Then, I graduated and realized that no one taught me how to practice law. No biggie, because the complexity of the legal system meant that everyone else needed my “expertise.” Honestly if the system was simplified, I’m pretty sure most people would do just fine.

We’ve created the same problem around saving lives from sudden cardiac arrest. AED devices are mysterious. People know that they deliver a shock so they are ignorantly reluctant to use the device out of fear of hurting the victim. Alternatively, someone who is willing to give it a shot may find a warning on the AED case that says “For Emergency Personnel Only.” Who’s going to touch that one?

Our efforts around CPR have been just as stifling. For decades, we were told that CPR required certification. There was a class and manuals and tests. We had to give up hours on a weekend to learn it. We don’t need certification. We need to know how to push and how fast to do it. What, you don’t believe me? Then watch this news story about two nine year old boys that learned CPR from a poster in their cafeteria and used it to save the life of an infant earlier this year.

We need to dumb this down. We need to Keep It Simple Stupid. We need a new Chief Marketing Officer. Yes, saving lives in a hospital may require special training, but out in the public space, we just need some willing and confident volunteers.

Step #1: Forget about teaching CPR and AEDs for a minute. Just get people to call 9-1-1. If they do this, we can work with 9-1-1 operators to guide them through locating an AED and performing CPR. We don’t have to worry about teaching anyone anything except for making that call. We know they all have cell phones!

Step #2:  Now that we have the 911 thing ingrained in our minds, let’s get those nine year old boys and their friends to teach CPR. Who’s going to feel intimidated if they see a nine year old doing it?

Step #3:  When In Doubt, Whip It Out. Yes, that’s my AED marketing campaign. If you see someone collapse, whip it out.  AEDs are automated and diagnostic. They will not administer a shock unless one is needed. There is no need for apprehension or concern. Whip it out! There have been far too many stories about AED devices not being used because they owner didn’t know how or when to use it.

An article last week suggests that more AEDs could save 20,000 more lives per year. This may be true. However, getting AEDs in public places needs to be the second step. The first step must be raising awareness about the problem and showing citizens that they can be a part of the solution.

To accomplish all of these things, we’re going to need the experts to step aside and make room for the nine year olds.





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