Basic life support is a crucial part of the Chain of Survival. Unfortunately, however the skill is complex and cannot readily be acquired--let alone retained--in the course of a single training session. Although the problem has long been recognised, no new strategies have been widely implemented to counter the problem. We believe that staged teaching of CPR might provide a solution, and we have devised a program to test this new method. It involves three stages of instruction that we have called bronze, silver, and gold standards. The bronze standard involves opening the airway and providing chest compression without active ventilation: this alone may widen the window of opportunity for successful defibrillation in adult victims in out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Ventilation is introduced at silver stage using a ratio of 50:5, with emphasis on its value in the resuscitation of children being used as motivation to bring people back for a second period of instruction. The gold stage teaches conventional CPR. A pilot study has been encouraging and a randomized trial on skill acquisition and skill retention is planned.