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CPR Trained Bystanders: What to Do During a Cardiac Arrest Emergency

Updated: May 31, 2023


A bystander giving CPR
A bystander giving CPR

As a CPR-trained bystander during a cardiac arrest incident, your primary goal is to initiate basic life support (BLS) and perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) until advanced medical care arrives. Here are the steps you should take:

  1. Assess the situation: Check the victim's responsiveness and breathing. If the victim is unresponsive and not breathing or only gasping for air, call for emergency medical services (EMS) immediately.

  2. Open the airway: Tilt the victim's head back and lift their chin to open their airway. Check for any obstructions in the mouth or throat, and clear them if present.

  3. Check for a pulse: Check for a pulse for no more than 10 seconds. If there is no pulse, begin CPR.

  4. Start chest compressions: Place the heel of one hand on the center of the victim's chest and place your other hand on top. Push down hard and fast, at 100-120 compressions per minute, to circulate blood and oxygen to the body's vital organs.

  5. Provide rescue breaths: After 30 compressions, provide two rescue breaths by tilting the victim's head back and pinching their nose shut while giving two breaths into their mouth.

  6. Continue CPR: Continue cycles of 30 compressions and 2 breaths until EMS arrives or the victim shows signs of regaining consciousness.

Remember, early CPR and defibrillation can significantly increase a victim's chances of survival. Therefore, acting quickly and confidently in a cardiac arrest emergency is essential.


In February 2022, a 50-year-old man named John collapsed while shopping with his wife in a New York shopping mall. Fortunately, a bystander named Mary Ann, who happened to be a nurse, saw what happened and rushed to his aid.


If you want to understand how CPR works and it's potential to save lives during a cardiac arrest emergency, read "The Science of CPR: Understanding How It Can Save Lives During a Cardiac Arrest Emergency".


Mary Ann quickly assessed the situation and determined that John had no pulse and was not breathing. Without hesitation, she began to administer CPR. She performed chest compressions and rescue breaths for several minutes until John's pulse returned.


Thanks to Mary Ann's quick thinking and CPR training, John survived the incident and was able to make a full recovery. Mary Ann's heroic actions were later recognized by the mall.


This incident is a powerful example of how bystander CPR can make all the difference in a medical emergency. If you find yourself in a similar situation, remember to assess the situation, open the airway, check for a pulse, start chest compressions, provide rescue breaths, and continue cycles of compressions and breaths until EMS arrives or the victim shows signs of regaining consciousness.



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