When a person's heart stops, his or her chance for survival is about 2 percent if CPR is not administered before emergency responders arrive.
"If CPR is done before we get to them, and if we use the AED (automatic external defibrillator), the chances of them walking out of the hospital is 30 percent," Battalion Chief Ryan Lamb, of the Cape Coral Fire Department, said.
"We asked, 'What can we do to increase the chances of having somebody walk out of the hospital?'" he said of the department.
The answer it came up with - establish a public CPR program.
"This is our first time offering it to the community," Lamb said of the training. "This is going to be the best thing to help save our neighbors and ourselves."
About 20 people were signed up for the first, three-hour class Friday.
"It's a mix of city employees and citizens," he said Thursday.
The class covers CPR, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, including chest compressions, and the specifics of where to press, how hard and how fast.
It is the American Heart Association's Heart Saver CPR/AED course.
"A lot of people get a false sense of CPR from movies and TV shows," Lamb said.
According to a study, CPR success rates on TV shows were 67 percent for "survival to discharge" and 75 percent for "immediate circulation."
"We also do choking, and infant - pediatric - CPR and choking," he said.
Most of the class involves watching videos and practice techniques.
"A lot of it's video-based," Lamb said.
The class costs $10 for residents, which covers the cost of the participant's CPR card and other supplies needed for the class.
"It's good for two years," he said of the CPR/AED card. "Anybody that has taken it in the past - it's a good idea to come back and get refreshed."
The CCFD can produce the cards in-house because it was certified as an American Heart Association training site about six months ago.
"That's why this has come up now," Lamb said of the community program, adding that it was too costly to provide the training to the public before.
Upon completing the course, the cards are mailed to participants.
The five-year goal of the program is to have 75 percent of the city's employees and 5,000 residents trained. The estimated cost to the Cape is $20,000 in the first two years, then eventually dropping to $17,500.
"The plan is to be cost neutral by year four," he said of the public part.
Future classes are set for March 12 from 6-9 p.m. and April 20 from 9 a.m. to noon. All classes will take place at Fire Station 8, at 707 S.W. First St.
"We're trying to do weekdays in the evenings or weekdays in the mornings," Lamb said, adding that the frequency of the class will depend on demand.
If enough interest is generated, a second site could be opened.
There is a maximum limit of 20 people per class.
To sign up, visit the city's Parks and Recreation Department Web site. Participants can pay for the course online using a credit card.
To pay by cash or check, visit the Parks and Recreation office, located on the Second Floor of Cape Coral City Hall, at 1015 Cultural Park Blvd.
Lamb noted the department will set up a private class for condo groups or local organizations that have at least 10 people who want to participate.