Why Ask "Why Save A Life?"

The question driving this project.

Why Ask "Why Save A Life?"

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I’m Nathan Harig, and for nearly 20 years I’ve been involved in emergency response in some way, shape or form. In 2002, I became a junior firefighter at age 16 with my local fire department. It was a decision I made on a bus to World Youth Day in Toronto, reflecting on the events of September 11th and inspired by my cousin who had recently become an EMT. One of my most memorable first medical assist calls was for a friend’s parent in cardiac arrest. I was useless, knew nothing, and used that as a launchpad to be better in those situations.

About two years later, I began college at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA. I pursued a Bachelor’s in Political Science. One of the main reasons I elected to go to this school was the existence of its own fire department. During that time, I received an Andreoli traveling scholarship and an Aurelius scholarship to visit Dublin Ireland and learn about Civil Defense, comparing it to our own civic engagement in the USA.

This is really the foundation of why I’ve started this project blog. As I finished both my Bachelors and a Master’s degree in Krakow, Poland, I began a career with that same emergency service I started as a volunteer with all those years ago. I became an assistant chief, a spokesperson, a data nerd, and kept singularly focused on improving sudden cardiac arrest outcomes in my community.

And while I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some great projects to do just this, I recently was hit hard by a painful question.

Why would you save the life of a stranger?

For those who are already CPR advocates or first responders themselves, this is an easy question. But when I thought about it in the context of a few simple facts, it really became apparently to me this is a more important question than I’d considered.

  • In 2021, nationally, 40.2% of cardiac arrests received bystander CPR. Most of this was likely done by a family member, as nearly 70% of cardiac arrests happen in a home. Only a 10.2% AED rate was noted. 1

  • Without bystander interventions, there is a near-0% survival rate.

  • Wide disparities exist between women and minorities receiving lifesaving care vs. white males.

  • Volunteer fire and emergency medical services are aging and struggling to attract new members, leading to nationwide closures. Departments are even struggling to attract paid staff2 3

Projects have sprung up across the United States and the world to place more AEDs, encourage members of the public to respond to their neighbors to start CPR, and solve an emergency workforce shortage.

At the same time, we’re a politically polarized nation and these divisions don’t appear to be healing naturally anytime soon.4 Even worse, some generations have incredibly low social cohesion, which is an important indicator for volunteerism.5

I realized I’d been here before - this may be a problem with civic engagement in general, and thus the Civic Resuscitation Project was born.

I promise no regularity to these updates, but through the course of this site I plan on exploring this problem more deeply. From motivations, to civic engagement in general, to the interesting things I find when trying to figure out how to encourage more people to step in and help their neighbors.  I have experience in a lot, but am not an expert, so I encourage others to correct or share their insights with me on this page.

Overall, I hope that we can work towards building a community that increases the care it has for others.  Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your own engagement!



  1. Data from 2021 national CARES reports here- https://mycares.net/

  2. https://www.wfmz.com/news/area/berks/national-volunteer-firefighter-shortage-impacting-some-berks-departments/article_8049e384-54ad-11ed-9e23-237a8e973c72.html

  3. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2023/02/06/states-strive-to-reverse-shortage-of-paramedics-emts

  4. https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2022/08/09/as-partisan-hostility-grows-signs-of-frustration-with-the-two-party-system/

  5. https://ncoc.org/key-findings/