Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Beverly Perdue signed two pieces of legislation into law Thursday that she says could save lives in North Carolina.
House Bill 837 requires students to learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver – and pass a test showing their proficiency in both – in order to graduation from high school. It becomes effective with the Class of 2015.
House Bill 914 requires at least one automatic external defibrillator unit, or AED, in every state building in North Carolina and that state workers be trained to use them.
"I can think of nothing we've done this year that has any more profound and long-lasting effects on the health and wellness and survivability in North Carolina from any kind of heart attack or incident," Perdue said.
Schools are already required to teach CPR, but the regulation isn't enforced, officials said.
Only 5 percent of North Carolinians who go into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting will survive, but their chances double or triple with CPR and a defibrillator, according to the American Heart Association.
"It's a way to save lives," Perdue said. "A quarter of all the people who die in North Carolina die from some kind of cardiac incident."
Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, who suffered a heart attack in her legislative office in 2009, sponsored the legislation. She says her life was saved because an AED was in the Legislative Building and former Rep. Bob England, a physician, performed CPR on her.
"This was pretty much her life's work after her second birth, in many ways," said Carney's son, Brian Gullette. "She now has a second birthday on April 2nd, and every year, she says, 'I'm 3 years old. I'm 4 years old.' So, we have a great celebration every year."
Perdue also encouraged adults to get CPR training, which is offered in most communities through civic and church groups, the Red Cross and community colleges.
Heart disease is the cause of 23 percent of all deaths in North Carolina, according to the American Heart Association.
Almost 185 out of every 100,000 North Carolina residents died of heart disease in 2008, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The state ranked 29th nationally, although its rate was slightly below the national average.