RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 people die of cardiac arrest outside of the hospital each year. In those situations, time is critical. That’s why Wake EMS is urging everyone to learn CPR.

“This is a skill that I personally believe that every person walking this earth should know,” Brooks said.

Wake EMS Public Information Officer Brian Brooks said people can start to have irreversible brain damage within the first 5-6 minutes of a cardiac arrest. He said if chest compressions are done within those first five to six minutes, a person’s survival rate could triple.

“Our average response time is about 7-8 minutes to cardiac arrest calls, which is — that’s worst-case scenario, those calls take precedence over everything,” Brooks said. “If we’re not gonna be there for 7-8 minutes and at the 6-minute mark there’s irreversible brain damage going on, there’s a gap that someone needs to intervene to make this a positive outcome”

Another tool is AED kits, which will shock the heart if there’s an abnormal rhythm. Brooks said they should only be used if someone can get to one without chest compressions being disrupted.

“It is truly a piece of equipment that anyone can use,” Brooks said.

The kit has a picture of where to place the panels and audio instructing you what to do, including if it is about to shock the patients and if chest compressions are needed. 

CBS 17 asked the North Carolina High School Athletic Association what the requirements are for AEDs and individuals trained in CPR at athletic events. The Association’s Assistant Commissioner James Alverson said a licensed athletic trainer or first responder is required at all football practices, football games, and wrestling matches. Alverson said AEDs are not required at games.

“Most of our member schools, if not all, have AEDs on their campuses and in my experience, there is almost always one in the athletic venues during contests, though I cannot say it is a specific requirement,” Alverson said.

Additionally, he said every head and/or paid coach at a member school is required to be AED/CPR certified. Vounteer/unpaid coaches are required to complete the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Course.

At the Wake County Public School System, Senior Administrator in Communications Matt Dees said people trained in CPR are at all games and most practices. He said all 25 high schools and 36 middle schools with interscholastic sports teams have at least two AEDs for athletics, with one near the gym in an alarmed cabinet and one that is portable for practices and games.

“WCPSS Athletics assessed and updated all of our schools that offer athletics this year to ensure that all 61 schools with athletic programs have a minimum of two AEDs for use specifically for athletic programs,” Dees said. “We purchased 54 new AEDs this year for our athletic programs.”

CBS 17 is waiting to hear back as to whether every single school building, including elementary schools, has an AED kit.

A spokesperson for Durham Public Schools said all schools have at least one AED device. 

“All of our athletic programs currently have AEDs solely for their athletic programs.  Athletic trainers are responsible for each AED as they are readily available when they are covering athletic events,” said the district’s athletic director.

About a year ago, Wake County started using an app called PulsePoint, businesses can register their AED kits. A map in the app will show if an AED kit is nearby, about a dozen show up in downtown Raleigh, mainly in government buildings. The app also notifies you if there’s a nearby cardiac arrest, so anyone can go respond before first responders arrive.

“The biggest obstacle is getting over the fear of intervening in this situation,” Brooks said.

Brooks said not doing anything is the worst thing someone could do.

Dees said CPR is a graduation requirement in North Carolina, with students meeting the requirement in 8th grade.

Wake County EMS is offering free hands-only CPR classes on Jan. 18, Feb. 15, March 15, April 9, and May 17 . Click here for more information and to register.