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Gov. Nathan Deal crisscrossed North Georgia on Thursday, hopping from county to county in a helicopter. He first stopped in Dalton to sign a bill reforming the state's juvenile justice system. He then zoomed to Ringgold, where he signed the Georgia Pain Management Act targeting "pill mills." Then it was on to Dade County High and Walker County, where he signed bills on preservation of historic barns and changing how vacancies are filled on the Hospital Authority of Walker, Dade and Catoosa Counties board.
In the Dade County High School gym filled with student chatter and buzzing fluorescent lights, Georgia state Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, spoke Thursday just before Gov. Nathan Deal signed Senate Bill 212 into law.
The bill requires all Georgia high schools to show a 30-minute instructional video on how to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation and use an automatic defibrillator in health and physical education classes.
"If we can teach it to our young people, if we can save just one life, what a great thing we can accomplish," Mullis said.
Deal, who spent most of Thursday being whisked around Northwest Georgia signing legislation into law, said the training bill "will help educate our youth and our young people in saving lives."
Every year, more than 380,000 people die from cardiac arrest and only 8 percent of cardiac arrest victims survive, Deal told the audience, which included area officials and school board members.
"We believe that having somebody who knows CPR can double or triple a person's chances of surviving a cardiac arrest," Deal said.
While the bill won't require students to become certified in CPR, many schools already incorporate certification instruction into their curriculums.
Dade County High School Principal Josh Ingle said that this year nearly 160 students were certified in a course that local emergency services personnel provided free.
"There's a lot of community networking going on," Ingle said. "We call on our local officials to help out, not just in emergency situations. Teaching kids CPR is something they can take away."
In Walker County, CPR instruction has been a part of the curriculum for years, according to Donna Clements, health care science teacher at LaFayette High School.
"[It's part] of our standards ... it is a part of the curriculum for our course. We already certify my students for CPR and first aid," she said.
Clements said she often tries to pay for the classes out of her budget or to hold fundraisers to cover the $5 per-person fee the American Heart Association charges for CPR certification.
"By equipping more people in our state with the knowledge of how to react under these life-and-death situations, I believe, we'll help eliminate unnecessary deaths to family members, to our friends and to our fellow Georgians," Deal said.
Contact staff writer Lindsay Burkholder at lburkholder@times freepress.com or 423-757-6592.